Nigel Adkins takes charge of his first home as Reading manager and by a twist of fate, welcomes former club Southampton to the Madejski Stadium. The former Scunthorpe boss was controversially sacked in late January despite leading the Saints to two successive promotions and 15th in their debut season back in the Premier League.
The job he has inherited at Reading looks a rather more difficult prospect than keeping Southampton up would have been. Indeed, the Royals’ disappointing 4-1 collapse at Arsenal last week was their sixth league defeat in a row, a run that leaves them rock bottom of the table, a full seven points off survival and with only seven games to play, staring down the barrel of a quickfire return to the Championship.
That makes victory at home to a Southampton side that are rapidly pulling away from their relegation rivals a must for Adkins and Reading and he has the luxury of a near full-strength squad to choose from, with only Jimmy Kebe and Jason Roberts missing for the rest of the season.
Contrastingly, Southampton look to have kicked since Mauricio Pochettino’s arrival as Adkins’ replacement at St Mary’s. Since their disappointing 2-1 loss at home QPR in early March, the South Coast club have gone on a three-match unbeaten run that has included two successive victories over Premier League giants Chelsea and Liverpool.
However, despite riding high in 12th position, Pochettino will be aware that they remain only four points above the drop zone and if they can secure victory over Reading, it may just guarantee their top flight status for another season.
Artur Boruc and Adam Lallana should be fit to take their place in the Saints starting XI after suffering from a virus and a groin injury respectively while in-form duo Jay Rodriguez and Rickie Lambert look set to continue up front.
See what the expert tipsters at OLBG are tipping on Reading