A right Royals mess
Matt Le Tissier expects Reading to lose their eighth Premier League game in a row against Aston Villa.
Last Updated: 22/02/08 1:46pm
Reading v Aston Villa
12noon, Sunday, Sky Sports 1
Losing seven games in a row is a hell of a run and Reading will need to show a lot of character to get themselves out of the relegation scrap.
At the start of the season I thought Reading would do ok, but I never expected them to go on such a terrible run because they've got decent footballers in their squad. I just didn't see it coming.
Their form was comparable to last season until a couple of months ago, but since Christmas they've got stuck in a rut and have no confidence, particularly away from home. They've only picked up three points on the road all season and Steve Coppell has a big job on his hands.
You'd have thought he might have tried to freshen things up by bringing some new players in during the January transfer window, but you don't know what the money situation is like. Mr Madejski isn't short of a few quid, but he doesn't seem to be throwing much of it at the football club at the moment.
They are in a lot of trouble, but I don't particularly buy into this notion of "second season syndrome". I don't think it's right to say that teams suss you out after your first season in the Premier League.
I think what happens is that players have a lot of adrenaline when they first come into the Premier League and they play with a huge buzz, which gets them through the first season. In the second year, it's not quite so exciting, they've played at all the grounds before and maybe that same level of adrenaline doesn't flow through them.
A big problem for Reading is that the strikers haven't done as well for them this season, although Dave Kitson is still the joint top English scorer in the Premier League.
Kevin Doyle hasn't really come on this season and Leroy Lita has been left out of the side for long periods. He's only played the full 90 minutes once in the league and I'm surprised Coppell hasn't given him a bit of a run with Reading struggling to score goals. I suppose he sees him in training every day and has decided he's not doing enough to merit a place.
Stephen Hunt has been their best player this season. When you're in a relegation scrap you need players like him because he's one of those guys who'll grind for you. He covers acres on the pitch every weekend and he's not short of quality with that left foot either.
I do believe they'll have enough to survive this season and turn things around. I tipped Reading to stay up at the start of the season and I stand by that. This run can't go on forever, although I don't think things are going to get much better on Sunday.
That's because they are facing a Villa side in good form. They won 4-1 against Newcastle last time out, even though they were quite average for large parts of the game.
Up for grabs
Newcastle gifted them that game with poor defending from set pieces and Villa were able to pick up a handsome win without playing great, so that's not a bad way to come into the Reading match.
They're level on points with Liverpool and that fourth Champions League spot is up for grabs if they can put a run together.
They are having a decent little spell at the moment as they've only lost once in the last 10 games - and that was a very surprising defeat to Fulham - so there's absolutely no reason why they can't challenge for fourth.
Their chances will be boosted by the return of Gabriel Agbonlahor from injury because he's looked very impressive, although I was surprised Martin O'Neill allowed Luke Moore to join West Brom.
That news took me aback a little bit because Villa haven't exactly got the biggest squad in the world and you can't be sure Agbonlahor will stay fit after his injury.
I suppose managers are paid to make decisions like that and O'Neill is a very good manager, so who am I to argue?
Le Tiss predicts
AWAY WIN - I'm going for Villa to win this 2-1. Although Reading's awful run has got to come to an end some time soon, I think Villa will be too strong. They've only lost twice on the road all season and are chasing that fourth place, so I think they'll win.
Matt's Main Man
JOHN CAREW - His hat-trick against Newcastle two weeks ago proves he's finally finding his feet in the Premier League and he now looks like the player we always knew he could be.