Reading’s barnstorming charge to the Championship title was one of the great stories of the 2011/12 season.
Brian McDermott’s men, much-fancied for success before a ball was kicked, endured an indifferent first half of the campaign which appeared to have killed their hopes of gaining automatic promotion.
However, following a drab 1-0 home defeat to Hull on January 21st, the Royals never looked back, reeling off 15 victories in their final 20 games – including an eight-match winning streak – to surge past previous top two Southampton and West Ham and secure a glorious return to the Premier League.
Reading certainly have momentum by the bucket loads as they begin life back in the big time and that could well take them past Stoke City, who they welcome to the Madejski Stadium in Saturday’s curtain-raiser.
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The Potters could only muster 36 goals last season – the lowest tally in the top flight – and fired a mere 2.5 shots on target per match. Worse still, only 11 of those strikes came away from home.
McDermott’s men are rated as 27/20 favourites for the win, with the draw at 11/5 and the Potters priced up at 2/1 to open their campaign with an important away triumph.
For Stoke to stand any chance of achieving that goal, they need to reverse their dire form from the end of last season. They won just one of their last 11 league matches as their season fizzled out in disappointing fashion.
An industrious defence laid the foundations for Reading’s success last season and while there are weaknesses that top Premier League outfits might expose, it is questionable whether Stoke will cause the home backline too much trouble.
Backing Reading to keep a clean sheet at 7/4 is therefore another attractive option.
After all, the Potters could only muster 36 goals last season – the lowest tally in the top flight – and fired a mere 2.5 shots on target per match. Worse still, only 11 of those strikes came away from home.
While Stoke remain a tough outfit to beat, particularly on their own patch, there is no clear indication of where extra goals might come from this term.
Tony Pulis made two useful midfield summer signings in Michael Kightly and Jamie Ness, but that does not compensate for the fact that an attack led by Peter Crouch is worryingly tame at times.
A win for Reading in a game featuring two goals or less is therefore a stand-out punt at, while also being worth £92 to anyone successfully backing it with their free £20 bet upon registering with bwin.
After all, the hosts are not exactly prolific themselves. The Royals’ strikeforce failed to sparkle too brightly despite their success last season and their 69 goals as champions was, remarkably, the same total as 15th-placed Ipswich managed.
While the muscular presence and finishing ability of Pavel Pogrebnyak and Danny Guthrie’s distribution from the centre of midfield should help, they might take time to get into their stride.
With that in mind, odds of 6/1 for a 1-0 home win offer a decent long shot as punters aim to make the perfect start to their betting season on Saturday.
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