READING - WATFORD
The weather situation is driving me crazy, temperatures dipped again in many areas yesterday, but are set to stabilize today and rise considerably over the weekend, this is set to leave a lot of games at risk, as the thaw might arrive too late. However, I live very close to Reading and we have had no frost for 48 hours and sunshine for much of yesterday, so I can forsee no problems tonight.
Regular readers will know that I am a fan of Reading and especially their coach Steve Coppell. I believe that they are the best squad of players in the Championship and that they will win the title. Not only do they have a touch a class, but like all Coppell's team's they are very resilient and do not know when they are beaten. They have not lost in eight starts and in their last five outings, have scored five times after the 82nd minute. They have a touch of steel and collected four points in consecutive away games at Barnsley and Cardiff after having a man sent off in each and playing for 90 minutes + with ten men, over the two matches.
It might appear at first glance that they have gone off the boil, with two draws in the last two league starts and a cup loss at Cardiff last week. However, there was much to take from the league stalemates and Coppell is notorious for resting his key players in the cup competition's, he is only concerened with returning to the top flight and will have Doyle, Rosenior, Ingimarsson and Stephen Hunt back tonight.
They are currently in an automatic playoff spot, ahead of Birmingham on goal difference, they will be targeting three points tonight, ahead of a tough run of fixtures, starting with Swansea away, leaders Wolves at home and a visit to QPR. Reading have scored a league high 32 goals at home, only one other club has even managed 25, they boast the best goal difference in the Championship and have conceded a league low eight times, at the Madejski. Which brings me to an additional motivation for Coppell, he has a very good and close relationship with club owner John Madejski, this is the first home start since "Sir John" received a knighthood in the New Year honours list and I am sure that Coppell, who is "old school", would like to celebrate that with a glowing performance.
When they win at home, it is usually with a manner of ease, nine of the eleven wins have come by two or more goals and the average margin of victory is over 2.6 per game. It will not be easy, Watford are improving and have tightened up considerably defensively under Brendan Rodgers and come here on the back of two clean sheets, but did concede three at Birmingham recently and four at home to Bristol City, who had not won in eight, on Boxing Day, so, when they do concede, a second or third is likely to follow, once they are out of their game plan. Tough handicap, so I will not go overboard, but I am confident of a home win.
Much has been written elsewhere about the state of the pitch, but the undersoil heating has kept it in reasonable condition and Reading trained on it last night, which they would not have done , if there were any concerns about the surface cutting up.
5.5 points Reading -1 goal 1.91 + asian line.