Another relegation six-pointer will see Southampton take on Reading, a team that desperately need to recover from a three-match losing run. Having beaten QPR away 3-1 in a similar fixture few weeks ago, the Saints have every right to feel optimistic about their chances in this match.
Southampton showing massive improvement
Having mostly signed players with little or no Premiership experience, Southampton were heavily tipped for a straight return to the Championship, and the predictions seems spot on as Nigel Adkins’ side largely struggled in the opening exchanges. However, everybody could soon see that the Saints have plenty of talent and quality among their ranks and that maybe they would be able to put up a serious survival challenge. Impressive victory over QPR in the match dubbed as El Sackico seemed to be just what the team needed to turn the season around, with 2-0 win over Newcastle that followed further improving their survival chances. Southampton may have taken just one point from last two games, but the promising showings against both Norwich and Liverpool give us reason to believe the Saints can return to winning ways against fellow strugglers Reading.
Playmaker Gaston Ramirez is back in the squad after being granted a compassionate leave, while Richard Chaplow is also available.
Reading in problems
Given the limited resources at their disposal, Reading officials did their best to reinforce the squad during off-season, but the summer recruitment hasn’t had the desired effect. While showing glimpses of quality in some games, it has become more than evident that the Royals haven’t quite managed to make the step up to the Premier League level, which is why nobody is surprised to see them deep in the relegation zone. Being four points adrift of safety and on a three-match losing run, Reading will be under tremendous pressure at the St Mary’s and that is unlikely to improve their chances of ending the dismal run. While boss Brian McDermott is adamant he doesn’t need to reinforce the squad in January, this match could easily prove him wrong and I seriously doubt the Royals can avoid the fourth successive defeat.
Pavel Pogrebnyak is doubtful through injury, but Danny Guthrie should return. Jimmy Kebe, Jem Karacan and Alex McCarthy are long-term worries.
I cannot help but feel that Southampton have shown much more than their next opponents this season and it is perfectly clear the Saints are not far from the desired form. The same cannot be said for Reading, who are in huge problems after losing last three Premiership fixtures.
Top pick: Home win 1.95 (19/20) @ BetVictor
Alternative pick 1: Over 2.5 goals 1.70 (7/10) @ bet365
Alternative pick 2: Southampton to score two or more 1.83 (5/6) @ Ladbrokes