Match Preview: Reading (H) - Can Sunderland Turn The Feel-Good Factor Into Points?

Hopefully there'll be more frowny faces from Heston Blumenthal this weekend. Sorry, Brian McDermott.

Well, that's come around quick hasn't it?

A week that has seen Sunderland progress remarkably on the transfer front has bridged last Saturday's spirited draw against Arsenal at the Emirates with this weekend's game - the first of the new season at the Stadium of Light.

Reading are the visitors, on the road again after making the short trip to Stamford Bridge in midweek. As with any newly-promoted team, write them off at your peril.

Here is everything you'll need info-wise before heading off to the match tomorrow, so read on...

Sunderland Team News

Nothing new on the injury front and, at the time of writing, nothing new on the player front despite progress being made in the Steven Fletcher deal.

Phil Bardsley and Wes Brown remain sidelined, ensuring that the back four that kept a clean sheet at Arsenal should remain intact. Elsewhere, Louis Saha has a full week of training behind him this time around, and could well start at the expense of Fraizer Campbell.

Should Fletcher’s move be confirmed before Friday’s noon deadline, then it is a possibility he will replicate Saha by making his debut from the bench.

Reading Team News

Jem Karacan got 71 minutes under his belt in midweek against Chelsea, a further step in his rehabilitation from a broken ankle. He may be the one to make way should Brian McDermott want a partner for Pavel Pogrebnyak. If that is the case then both Adam Le Fondre and Noel Hunt – who featured from the bench against Chelsea – will be pressing for a start.

Reading’s back four has been the same in its first two Premier League games, so Adrian Mariappa may have to continue to be patient as he waits to make his debut.

Predicted Lineups

Sunderland: Mignolet; Gardner, Cuellar, O’Shea, Richardson; Larsson, Cattermole, Colback, McClean; Sessegnon, Saha

Reading: Federici; Gunter, Pearce, Gorkss, Harte; McAnuff, Guthrie, Leigertwood, McCleary; Pogrebnyak, Le Fondre

Key Matchup: James McClean Vs Chris Gunter

McClean’s direct approach is often Sunderland’s ‘go-to’ attacking source, especially on the break, and Reading need to be aware of not only his pace, but his upper body strength when embarking on surging forward runs.

The Irish winger found himself double-marked during the latter stages of last season, and against a defensive unit that has played the majority of its football in the Championship, the same is to be expected.

Gunter is not afraid to get forward and support attacks, which may also favour Sunderland and its counter attacking nature. Should Gunter relinquish his defensive position, McClean – accompanied by the wandering Stephane Sessegnon – has the ability to punish Reading.

Recent Form: DDWDL

Draw: Bournemouth 2-2 Reading (Mariappa 12, Thomas 35, Robson-Kanu 73, Addison 82)

Draw: Brighton 1-1 Reading (Vicente pen 33, Robson-Kanu 90)

Win: Reading 2-0 Crystal Palace (Pogrebnyak 52, Le Fondre 53)

Draw: Reading 1-1 Stoke (Kightly 34, Le Fondre pen 90)

Loss: Chelsea 4-2 Reading (Lampard pen 18, Cahill 69, Torres 81, Ivanovic 90; Pogrebnyak 25, Guthrie 29)

Last Time Round: Reading 2-1 Sunderland, 22/12/07

If memory serves this was the game that Roy Keane allegedly had a spat with Steve Coppell post-match (Roy never liked red wine or conceding last-minute winners).

After a dreary first half, the hosts took the lead through Ivar Ingimarsson only for Michael Chopra to level from the spot. With the game heading towards what seemed a valuable away point for newly-promoted Sunderland, Stephen Hunt (how could we forget him?) stole in to win it for Reading.

The Ref: Neil Swarbrick

Usually, fans of both clubs are already cursing the referee’s name by the time Saturday comes around; all-too-aware that he has seemingly wronged your team in the past.

Swarbrick is different, however. At the grand old age of 42 he has only been at elite refereeing rank for a short time–his first Premier League game being our goalless draw at Fulham in December, 2010.

Since then he had officiated a Sunderland game just once – last season’s 2-1 defeat to Arsenal at the Emirates. Hopefully third time is a charm for Sunderland with Mr Swarbrick in the middle.

What The Managers Said

Martin O’Neill: I know from experience these games are not easy. We're certainly not good enough to treat anyone lightly, but I'm not decrying us in any shape or form, it just means that we've got to be at it.

We're at home now. We want to show our attacking options and we want to score some goals this season. That's one of our aims, if not priority.

Brian McDermott: We have the belief in the dressing room that we can go to any place in the country and put them under pressure. We know how good we are and we know we can definitely compete in the division.

We’ve put it to bed though, and hopefully we can get a result at Sunderland. Every game is important but we’re confident looking ahead to the game on Saturday. It’s a tough place to go, but we’ll be going there taking the positives and learning from the negatives.

Roker Report Predicts

Considering the feel-good factor currently residing in Sunderland, this has all the makings of a potential crash landing. It seems very, very rare that Sunderland gets everything right, and with the current transfer breakthroughs this could be where the feel-good bubble bursts. Reading is still riding the feel-good factor that promotion brings, and provided a stern test for Chelsea in midweek. Despite that, we think the positive vibes emanating from the Stadium of Light will help get Sunderland off to a winning start at home, with a slender 2-1 victory.

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