Stoke will certainly fancy their chances of turning Reading over at the Britannia and in doing so, picking up their much-needed first win of 2013. After surprising everyone with their 10-match unbeaten run just before the end of last year, the Potters season appears to have hit a brick wall with some extremely poor performances of late, though their slender defeat at Arsenal last week at least hinted at a return to the solidity we have come to expect from Tony Pulis’ side.
Pulis could hand a debut to American winger Break Shea, who has been recovering from a foot operation while Peter Crouch should retain his place up front in place of Kenwyne Jones. The Potters’ only injury absentee, Mark Wilson, should return to first-team action soon after making his comeback from a broken leg in a friendly in the week.
Visitors Reading are one of the Premier League’s form sides and have only lost one of their last seven matches, four of those being victories, to raise themselves from the bottom of the table to two points clear of the drop zone in 17th position.
Brian McDermott’s men will welcome back Noel Hunt, who has been missing for the last two matches with an injury, while there are doubts over Jamaican trio Adrian Mariappa, Jobi McAnuff and Gareth McCleary after turning out for the Reggae Boys in Mexico in midweek. Pavel Pogrebnyak will lead the line once more with super-sub Adam Le Fondre again having to make do with a place on the substitutes bench.