Thursday night's live Championship game comes from the Madejski Stadium as Reading take on Queens Park Rangers in the battle of the blue and white hoops. Mark O'Haire previews the encounter...
"The Royals deep-lying possession football has had its critics but the Berkshire boys have bagged victories in nine of their last 11 league encounters and have already accrued 16 more points than at the same stage of 2015/16."
Reading v QPR
Thursday 12th January, 20:00
Live on Sky Sports 1
Reading were thumped 4-0 by Manchester United in last weekend's FA Cup action but Jaap Stam's side will be keen to bounce back and cement their place in the Championship's promotion race on Thursday evening.
The Royals deep-lying possession football has had its critics but the Berkshire boys have bagged victories in nine of their last 11 league encounters and have already accrued 16 more points than at the same stage of 2015/16.
Reading failed to impose themselves at Old Trafford until they were two goals down but back at their Madejski Stadium base we should expect a much stronger display from a side that's bagged five consecutive home wins.
Captain Paul McShane remains out along with Callum Harriott, Anssi Jaakkola, Stephen Quinn and Deniss Rakels. At the time of writing Tiago Ilori's signing hasn't been completed so Stam must decide whether to field Joey van den Berg or Tyler Blackett at the back or switch to 3-5-2. John Swift is also chasing a recall.
QPR halted a six-match losing run by narrowly beating Wolves and Ipswich before falling to yet another FA Cup defeat. No side in England has lost more FA Cup 3rd Round games following the Hoops' reverse at home to Blackburn.
Ian Holloway's troops put in a decent shift at Loftus Road last Saturday but the R's created precious little in the attacking third. QPR lacking cohesion after making five changes to the side but their inability to trouble Rovers was alarming.
The visitors have seen striker Sebastian Polter and midfielder Ben Gladwin leave the club this week with Sandro and playmaker Tjaronn Chery close to joining them at the exit as Holloway shuffles his pack. Winger Kazenga LuaLua could be in line for a debut following his arrival on-loan from Brighton.
Elsewhere, full-back Darnell Furlong and midfielder Michael Doughty are expected to be in the squad after being recalled from loan spells at Swindon. Defenders Steven Caulker and Jack Robinson remain absent but youngster Ryan Manning should keep his place in midfield.
QPR have suffered only one defeat in their past nine league meetings with Reading (W3-D5-L1) but recent showdowns have tended to disappoint with only five goals scored across the past nine hours of action between the pair.
Reading have been effective rather than spectacular - 10 of their 14 triumphs have arrived by a solitary goal - this season but their Madejski record (W8-D3-L1) makes the hosts worthy favourites at a generous [1.90].
The Royals have scored at least three goals in each of their past three outings and beaten six of their last nine bottom-half visitors to Berkshire.
QPR [4.50] have been beaten in seven of their most recent nine fixtures, as well as nine of their past 10 when travelling to top-six opposition. With the Hoops failing to keep a clean sheet since mid-October and unable to trouble defenece, it's hard to find any faith in a positive away-day performance.
Over/Under 2.5 Goals
Considering Reading have failed to record a shutout in eight games - conceding 18 goals in the process - and QPR are without a clean sheet in 13, punters may be well be drawn by the [2.06] available on Over 2.5 Goals here.
Indeed eight of the Royals' last nine have breached the two-goal mark, as have six of nine QPR outings since Ian Holloway took charge at W12.
But with Rangers toiling in the attacking third, scoring only eight goals in 12 Championship matches since mid-October it's an angle that's probably best left alone on Thursday evening.
Mark's 2016/17 Profit/Loss
Staked: 75.00 pts
Returned: 79.84 pts
P/L: +4.84 pts