Two clubs at opposite ends of the table square off Saturday as 19th place Reading host league leading Manchester United at the Madejski Stadium.
Coming off a crushing midweek defeat at Aston Villa, Reading will be looking for a rare result in their quest to stay out of relegation, while United will want three points to stay at the top of the table. On paper, this matchup is a runaway in favor of United, but as fans have witnessed in the past, the Madejski Stadium is a place of unexpected magic and results.
Let’s take a look at some of the players to watch in Saturday’s clash:
Robin van Persie
The Dutch striker scored within 30 seconds against West Ham at midweek and currently sits 2nd in the league in scoring. With three game winning goals this season, van Persie has continued his prowess even surrounded by other great goal scorers like Wayne Rooney, Chicarito Hernandez, and Danny Welbeck. His chemistry with Rooney has blossomed into a deadly combination and his ability from free kicks and corners makes him a constant threat for the opposition.
The young Northern Irish center back will be looking to get back on track after a rather suspect performance against West Ham. Evans has been somewhat of a surprise this season, scoring two goals in nine matches in the absence of Nemanja Vidic, who has been out since September, and it seems as if Evans is getting more and more comfortable at the back. With Reading’s strong strikers, Evans will need to be at his best come Saturday because when he is, United usually wins.
For a team that has earned just nine points from thirteen matches this season, one of the only consistent reliable forces has been Russian striker Pavel Pogrebnyak. With five goals in all competitions, Pogrebnyak leads the team in scoring and always provides a target man/aerial force up front for Reading. His size and skill give defenders problems, which in turn make his teammates more of a threat. If Reading is to challenge Manchester United for any kind of result this weekend, Pogrebnyak will be a key component.
The Ecuadorian winger was rested at midweek against West Ham, so he should be inserted into the lineup this weekend. His pace and creativity always baffles defenders and his constant work ethic makes whatever side he’s on, a nightmare for opposing wingers. Whenever Valencia plays, he makes a positive contribution to his team’s success. Scoring, assisting, defending, and keeping possession, Antonio Valencia can do it all. Look for him to make an impact against a Reading side that has conceded 23 goals this season and has no answer for his speed.
Manchester United will visit Madejski Stadium with one goal in mind; three points. With such a tight race for the title this season, The Reds cannot afford to drop points to teams like Reading that sit in the relegation zone.
For Reading, this weekend could continue a disappointing season, but as Arsenal found out in the Capital One Cup, Madejski Stadium is not an easy place to play. Saturday could be a turning point in Reading’s season if they can somehow manage a result, but looking at their track record, it is going to be a steep mountain to climb.