Premier League preview: Stoke v Reading
By Football News
Stoke City, still searching for their first win of 2013, desperately need to turn around their fortunes at home to Reading on Saturday.
As 2012 drew to a close, Stoke would have been looking forward to this match with considerable relish.
At that stage of the season, Stoke were riding high in the top half of the table, enjoying the fruits of a 10-match unbeaten run.
Reading, meanwhile, were firmly anchored in the relegation zone with an immediate return to the Championship looking a distinct possibility.
Reading, however, have won three of their past four league games while Stoke are without a league win since the 3-1 toppling of Liverpool on Boxing Day.
Stoke are in 10th place on 30 points, seven ahead of the Royals , who have managed to gain a two-point buffer over the three clubs in the relegation zone - Wigan, Aston Villa and QPR.
Tony Pulis would have been heartened by the news that defender Marc Wilson played his first competitive game this week since breaking his leg last October.
But with half the squad away on international duty, Pulis will be sweating on their availability for the Reading clash.
Of particular concern is Kenwyne Jones playing a friendly for Trinidad & Tobago against Peru, while Geoff Cameron is with the United States in a World Cup qualifier in Honduras.
"The two biggest worries at the moment are Kenwyne and Geoff because of the distances and time differences involved," assistant coach Dave Kemp said.
After a run of seven consecutive defeats, Reading have lost just once since Boxing Day.
Captain Jobi McAnuff is keen to keep the current run going, starting with the tough away trip to Stoke.
"We had a tough little spell where we couldn't win a game, and that can happen in this league," he said.
"We're on a good run but we just need to keep the momentum going and keep picking up the points.
"Our objective has always been to get above the team in front of us. There is a long way to go, a lot of tough games ahead."
McAnuff believes the form of Mali international Jimmy Kebe has been instrumental in Reading's resurgence.
Kebe scored both goals in the 2-1 home win over Sunderland last Saturday.
"Jimmy is in really good form and he's been a big player for us so far this season. His goal return has been good and he's flying at the moment," McAnuff said.
this is battle of the long ball teams. The ugliest teams to watch in the prem.