- Arsenal v Reading, Premier League
Fresh-faced Reading looking to upstage Gunners
New Reading manager Nigel Adkins has been thrown out of the frying pan and into the fire as he takes the Royals to a revitalised Arsenal on Saturday.
Adkins, who has taken over the reins at the Madejski Stadium following the recent sacking of Brian McDermott, will be desperate for a result on his Reading bow if the visitors are to have any hopes of avoiding the drop. The Royals currently sit seven points adrift of fourth-from-bottom Aston Villa.
Despite a battling performance at Old Trafford under the stewardship of Eamonn Dolan, Reading came away with no points but showed plenty of heart; something that Adkins, whose managerial tendencies lean towards a positive mentality, will certainly look to capitalise on in his new role.
And with the visit of former employers Southampton waiting in the wings, Adkins will look to take as much as momentum as possible from North London, where a rejuvenated Arsenal are hoping that lightning strikes twice as they look to overhaul Tottenham for fourth spot for the second consecutive season.
This time last year the Gunners found form and, coupled with Tottenham's woeful demise, finished a point ahead of their arch-rivals. Arsene Wenger, who has not won a trophy at the club in the last eight years, will have his sights set on saving another season and clinching fourth spot once more.
Arsenal return to the Emirates on the back of two confidence-boosting victories at both runaway Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich (in the Champions League) and the impressive Swansea City.
However, despite keeping a clean sheet in Munich and Swansea, the Gunners will be wary of their patchy home form of late; Wenger's men have only won one of the last three at the Emirates and also lost out to Championship strugglers Blackburn in the FA Cup.
Reading face a daunting task after losing six games on the spin, including key relegation battles at home to Wigan and Aston Villa. However, a fighting performance away at Old Trafford is something for Adkins to build on.
Arsenal have been rocked once more with the news that Abou Diaby is set for a lengthy spell on the sidelines after the midfielder suffered an anterior cruciate ligament injury in training.
Theo Walcott is a doubt after suffering a pelvic muscle tear whilst in international action for England, whilst Jack Wilshere continues to recover from an ankle injury. Lukas Podolski (ankle) and Bacary Sagna (knee) could return.
Pavel Pogrebnyak is available for Reading selection following completion of his three-match suspension. Jimmy Kebe (groin) remains doubtful and Jason Roberts is still sidelined with a hip injury.
Reading will be looking to exploit Arsenal's patchy home form of late, and with the expected return of big striker Pavel Pogrebnyak, it will be paramount to their chances that the Royals midfield can provide plenty of service.
The likes of Hal Robson-Kanu, Jobi McAnuff and Noel Hunt must look to damage the Arsenal backline, who have stood firm in their last two outings.
One to watch
Having risen from the lower leagues, most notably with Rochdale, Adam Le Fondre is having a solid season in English football's top flight. The striker has netted 12 goals so far, including braces against Chelsea, Everton and Newcastle.
Le Fondre scored in the reverse fixture last December, where Arsenal enjoyed a 5-2 victory at the Madejski Stadium. But the 26-year-old is a natural poacher and has the ability to punish the home side, given the chance.
Prediction and bet
Arsenal are odds-on to extend Reading's recent misery, as short as 1/4 with bet365. Reading's hard-working performance at Manchester United kept The Red Devils at bay, and the company are offering 9/1 on the same score-line; a 1-0 home win.
They also offer 3/1 on Adam Le Fondre to score any time as a single bet, although the anytime scorecast of Le Fondre to score and Arsenal to win 3-1 is an inviting punt at 30/1.
Final score: 3-1