Reading - West Ham Preview: Struggling Royals face injury-ravaged Hammers
The relegation-threatened side look to build on their point against Swansea but they come up against a team fresh from a Boxing Day break, albeit one still hampered by injuries
By Sam Wells
Gunter, Pearce, Mariappa, Harte
Kebe, Guthrie, McAnuff
WEST HAM UNITED
Tomkins, Collins, Reid, O'Brien
Taylor, Nolan, Jarvis
Brian McDermott looks set to persist with the same side that earned a hard-fought goalless draw against Swansea on Boxing Day, though Adam Le Fondre could replace Pavel Pogrebnyak after impressing in that game.
Also vying for contention up front is Jason Roberts, as the veteran striker looks as though he could return from a hip injury in time to feature in Saturday's clash.
Sean Morrison (ankle), however, is not as lucky as he remains sidelined, meaning that Alex Pearce and Adrian Mariappa will continue to marshall proceedings from the Royals' central defence.
Danny Guthrie's disciplinary problems look to be resolved as he prepares to start his second consecutive game; his refusal to travel to the Sunderland defeat earlier this month seemingly put in the past.
Sam Allardyce's side, meanwhile, continue to contend with a variety of injuries as Yossi Benayoun (knee), Andy Carroll (knee), Mohamed Diame (hamstring), George McCartney (knee) and Ricardo Vaz Te (shoulder) all remain sidelined by injury.
The Hammers have, however, received a timely boost with the unexpected availability of Carlton Cole; his three-match suspension from the red card given in the Everton game having been lifted after West Ham's appeal proved successful.
Right-back Guy Demel could also return to action after recovering from illness, though he looks more likely to be given a place on the substitute's bench as Allardyce looks set to retain faith in the side that succumbed to a 2-1 home defeat against Everton.
|DID YOU KNOW?|
- Reading have won five of the past seven encounters between these two sides, having done the double over West Ham in the Championship last season.
- The hosts have won just one of their last 12 Premier League games at the Madejski Stadium; they have drawn six of them and lost the other five.
- Reading have conceded more goals from crosses than any other side in the Premier League this season (11).
- In fact, the Royals have conceded more goals than any other Premier League team this season (37).
- All nine of Carlton Cole's (pictured right) league goals in 2012 have come at Upton Park; he has yet to score an away league goal this year.
- West Ham have picked up more cards than any other Premier League side this season (37 yellows and one red).
- The Hammers have scored only five away goals this season; the fewest of any side in the Premier League.
- The last time West Ham conceded six or more goals in a top flight game was away to Reading on New Year's Day 2007.
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Top 3 Predictions
Reading 1-2 West Ham
- 11.44 %
Reading 0-2 West Ham
- 8.96 %
Reading 1-3 West Ham
- 8.46 %
|Premier League (EPL)||19 May 2013||West Ham 4 - Reading 2|
|Premier League (EPL)||29 Dec 2012||Reading 1 - West Ham 0|
|England - Championship (ENG2)||10 Dec 2011||Reading 3 - West Ham 0|
|14 Dec 2013||Huddersfield Town 0 - Reading 1||ENG2|
|7 Dec 2013||Reading 1 - Bournemouth 2||ENG2|
|3 Dec 2013||Reading 1 - Charlton Athletic 0||ENG2|
|29 Nov 2013||Nottingham Forest 2 - Reading 3||ENG2|
|23 Nov 2013||Blackburn Rovers 0 - Reading 0||ENG2|
|9||Adam Le Fondre||Striker|
|12||Ricardo Vaz Te||Striker|
After handling Michu adeptly on Boxing Day, helping to earn his side a clean sheet in the process, it will be interesting to see how the centre-back will cope with a slightly different threat: Carlton Cole. The Jamaican international signed from Watford in the summer and has had a rocky start - Reading boasting the dubious honour of having conceded the most goals in the league - but, with the clean sheet obtained against Swansea, could it signal a new dawn for the Royals' defence? Mariappa will certainly hope so, though the dual threat of Kevin Nolan and Cole will be a stern test of his abilities.
The Liverpool-born attacking midfielder may not have scored in seven Premier League games - a rare barren run for such a prolific goalscorer - but he indubitably remains a threat; he is currently the Hammers' leading scorer with five goals. Also, he in particular will have been buoyed by Carlton Cole's unexpected availability; the 30-year-old thrives when playing off of a big frontman and that looks set to be the case on Saturday - he will be hoping he can capitalise on such good fortune and end this unwanted goalless streak sooner rather than later.
The Hammers continue to struggle with injury woes while The Royals, quite simply, continue to struggle, making this a tough match to call. However, with Carlton Cole's unexpected presence a boon and McDermott still attempting to find the right balance in his side, the away side should manage to prevail with a narrow win here.
Times In BST
Live Final scheduled Suspended Cancelled Postponed