Reading v Ipswich
Live on Sky Sports 5
The vibes around the Madejski Stadium are more positive than at any time since Steve Clarke's arrival and after a busy transfer window he needs to deliver with expectation levels climbing. He brought in 11 new faces over the summer and offloaded even more. New skipper Paul McShane has made an immediate impact in defence, though he's an injury doubt here while, Ola John is on loan from Benfica, who he joined for 12 million euros and could be anything. Matej Vydra, signed from Watford on loan, is proven at this level and could help solve the Royals' recent goalscoring problems.
Midfielder Oliver Norwood has been the standout player in their early games, relishing a new, deeper role shielding his back four. Three draws followed the opening day defeat at Birmingham before an impressive 3-1 win at Brentford last time out, when only the home keeper prevented a bigger margin of victory.
Town were edged out 3-2 at home by early pacesetters Brighton in their most recent game but have still made a promising start to the new campaign, with 10 points from a possible 15, after missing out in the play-offs last time round. Some fans were frustrated that not more of the £8m received from Bournemouth for Tyrone Mings was reinvested in new faces but Scottish winger Ryan Fraser - on a season-long loan from the new Premier League side - was nominated for the first player of the month award after scoring twice and assisting in four other goals so far.
They should have last season's Championship top goalscorer Daryl Murphy available again but will have to decide whether to bring him back in as scoring goals hasn't been an issue this season - it's at the other end they have been conceding more than a grizzled old centre-half than Mick McCarthy would like.
Despite their bright start, the visitors can be backed at 3.65 here, while Reading are the favourites at 2.35/4 and the draw is available to back at 3.412/5. The Royals look a bit short to me here given they've only managed 0-0 draws at home to MK Dons and Leeds in their previous two home fixtures, while McCarthy's men have taken four points from their two away fixtures this season.
It would have been six out of a possible six for Town if not for the 2-0 lead they threw away in injury time at Brentford on the opening day. Perhaps backers are following the Opta stats, which tell us Reading have won seven of the last eight games between this pair? As with so many Championship games this season, the draw has to be considered a real possibility here and I wouldn't put anybody off backing another televised stalemate. However, I'm going to focus on the goals markets for my recommended bets.
Over/Under 2.5 goals
Both games so far this season at the Madejski have been goalless draws so it's not a huge surprise to see unders as short as 1.728/11 with over 2.5 goals a juicy 2.35/4. That price looks to be the value here as the visitors have kept just one clean sheet in their seven matches so far this season - they conceded three at home to Brighton last time out and four of their five league matches this season have gone over the 2.5 line.
Clearly Town's rearguard isn't working as well as McCarthy would like at the moment but they have plenty of goals in the team with the likes of red-hot Freddie Sears (3) and David McGoldrick (2) already up and running for the season. Summer signing Brett Pitman also offers a goal threat from wide areas and that's before we even mention Murphy.
With centre-back Christophe Berra out injured for the visitors too, Clarke will be keen that his side to show they possess some real attacking quality of their own and I'm expecting goals here - take the 2.35/4 about there being at least three!
Both teams to Score
The market can't be split here with 1.9720/21 the price to back both teams to score and 1.9620/21 against it happening. For all the reasons outlined above I think we'll see goals at both ends of the pitch in this one and, at nearly evens, my money is on both teams to score - let's hope we get a Friday night feast!
Back over 2.5 goals at 2.35/4
Back both teams to score at 1.9720/21
You can read my previews of all the live Championship games here along with Mike Norman's Saturday 3pm tipsheets