Saturday, August 25, 2012

Sunderland vs. Reading preview

Martin O'Neill continued his great run at the Emirates Stadium, guiding his Sunderland team to a goalless draw against Arsenal on the opening day of the Premier League. It was a performance based on defensive discipline but sadly lacking in any attacking intention.

At the Stadium of Light, fans will be expecting a more enterprising home team. This is O'Neill's first full year in charge, and at the very least fans will hope that a visit to Sunderland becomes a tough assignment for any team in the Premier League. Sunderland have boosted the squad with the signings of striker Steven Fletcher from Wolves and winger Adam Johnson from Manchester City. While the jury is out on the 12 million spent on Fletcher, Johnson is a signing that is going to genuinely excite the fans.

O'Neill will probably insert Fletcher into the starting line-up straight away, probably replacing Frazier Campbell. As a manager who loves his wide players, James McClean and Seb Larsson will retain their spots, while Lee Cattermole and Craig Gardner will resume their partnership in the centre.

Reading have made a great start to their Premier League campaign, albeit they have only one point to show for their performances. They were unlucky to only draw against Stoke, and were even more unfortunate to lose 4-2 at Stamford Bridge in a thrilling game against Chelsea.

It is pretty clear that Brian McDermott is going to ask his side to score goals in order to ensure survival. While this approach should ultimately pay dividends for Reading, some reinforcements in defence are absolutely vital. Having goalkeeper Adam Federici not suffer anymore blunders will be a decent start. Questions also have to be asked about Ian Harte's longevity for a whole campaign.

With Pavel Pogrebnyak in the team, Reading will always be in with a chance of scoring in games. Add to the mix the excellent wing play of Jobi McAnuff supported by the forward runs of Chris Gunter, and Reading's enterprising style of play should work for the most part. McDermott might try to tweak his attack in this game, as Adam Le Fondre has been impressive coming on as a substitute in both games in place of the ineffective Garath McCleary.

Sunderland should start a good campaign on Wearside with a comfortable win against Reading. Reading have been involved in two very draining games, and a visit to Sunderland just three days after their humdinger against Chelsea will end up being too much for their thin squad.