Championship league leaders Reading entertain Stoke in Saturday's televised tussle from the second-tier. Mark O'Haire analyses the odds...
"These two clubs have accumulated 10 clean sheets between them across 20 tussles with BTTS No banking in 13/20 (65%) of those fixtures"
Reading v Stoke
Saturday November 7, 12:30
Reading slip to consecutive losses
Championship table-toppers Reading have seen their lead at the summit reduced to three points after successive back-to-back league losses. The Royals slipped to their first home league defeat of the campaign on Wednesday night against Preston 3-0, lacking the clinical quality in the final third that had seen the team win seven of their opening eight games.
Although Preston dominated the first half, Reading went closest to breaking the deadlock through a header from top scorer Lucas Joao. The visitors missed a penalty soon after half-time but two goals in a four-minute spell put paid to the Royals' hopes and North End added a third and final goal in stoppage time to confirm their superiority at the Madjeski Stadium.
Reading boss Veljko Paunovic said, "I'm not disappointed but I feel the pain. When you lose, you have to absorb it. That's what I told the players. You have to quickly bounce back and convert the pain into a positive energy for the next game." The Royals were without skipper Liam Moore, Yakou Meite, Ovie Ejaria and John Swift, the former trio are hoping to return here.
Stoke suffer controversial midweek defeat
Ismaila Sarr scored a stoppage-time winner for Watford as Stoke suffered a second away Championship defeat on the spin on Wednesday night in a controversial contest. The lead changed hands three times in the Vicarage Road clash, with the Potters given early impetus when Steven Fletcher converted Nick Powell's low cross just two minutes into the match-up.
Watford drew level when Tom Cleverley's shot was judged to have crossed the line after being tipped on to the bar by keeper Angus Gunn, who was himself then barged over the line after gathering the bouncing ball. The Hornets made it 2-1 from the spot after Gunn was penalised for bringing down Sarr, who netted the decider after Powell had levelled.
Michael O'Neill was understandably irked by two important refereeing decisions that went against his side in defeat. The Irishman had named an unchanged starting XI from the side which had beaten Rotherham last Saturday, which itself featured six changes. The visitors remain without Joe Allen, Sam Clucas, James Chester, Adam Davies and Ryan Shawcross.
Royals outsiders on home turf
Meetings between Reading and Stoke have traditionally been tight affairs with six of the past seven head-to-heads across all competitions ending all-square, including all four fixtures following the Potters' return to the second-tier. However, the Royals are unbeaten in 16 league contests with City in Berkshire since 1992, earning nine triumphs (W9-D7-L0).
Reading 2.942/1 flew out of the traps under Veljko Paunovic's leadership (W7-D1-L0), recording six shutouts in eight. But the Royals were operating at an unsustainable rate in the final-third and perhaps variance is now bringing the league ladders back to reality. Nevertheless, the hosts have W4-D0-L1 on home soil, silencing four of their five guests.
Stoke 2.727/4 were progressing nicely under Michael O'Neill's watch but consecutive defeats on the road have stalled the Potters' early assault on the top-six. Curiously, the visitors have been beaten in all three matches against current top-seven sides and come into this contest having been beaten in 15 of their 28 away league outings since the start of last season.
Oppose goals at the MadStad
Reading and Stoke have combined to see Under 2.5 Goals 1.574/7 land in 12/20 (60%) of their collective Championship games thus far with Expected Goals (xG) figures also pointing to a low-scoring showdown in Berkshire. But with little value to be gleaned on the regular goals line, it might be worth instead opposing Both Teams To Score at the Madjeski Stadium.
These two clubs have accumulated 10 clean sheets between them across 20 tussles with BTTS No banking in 13/20 (65%) of those fixtures, including 9/10 (90%) when viewing their respective home/away encounters. Despite the high trends in our favour, we're being offered odds of 1.774/5 on a repeat for Saturday's early start and that's an appealing price.
Mark's 2020/21 Profit/Loss
Staked: 33.00 pts
Returned: 38.70 pts
P/L: +5.70 pts
Back Both Teams To Score ‘No’ at 1.77 in Reading v Stoke