Manchester City v Reading preview
By Paul Andrews
It would've been a somber day at Etihad Stadium today as the draw for the knockout stages of the UEFA Champions League was made without the Blue half of Manchester being in the hat. That issue would've been compounded by the fact that Roberto Mancini's side even failed to make it into the Europa League however the silver lining may well be that they can now concentrate 100% on retaining their Premier League title.
As champions Manchester City will be heavy favourites when they host struggling Reading in the English Premier League on Saturday and they'll need to justify that tag especially after losing that remarkable unbeaten home record that stretched almost two years to a last-minute 3-2 defeat against arch-rivals Manchester United in their last home match. Mancini was grateful to see the defending champions responded in style last weekend, accounting for Newcastle 3-1 at St James' Park.
In Newcastle Mancini's men were back to their free-flowing best, with Ivory Coast midfielder Yaya Toure pulling the strings in a sublime performance which also yielded a goal. The dominant victory ended a two-game winless run for City and showed just why they were crowned champions last season.
Meanwhile Saturday's opponents, Reading, are in damage control as they continue to slip further adrift at the foot of the table. A crushing 5-2 defeat at the hands of Arsenal on Monday has left the Brian McDermott's men with just nine points from 17 games and five points off safety after six successive losses. That losing streak has also seen a total of 16 goals conceded and unless they improve defensively, a swift return to the Championship appears likely.
But despite Reading's dreadful run of results, McDermott is confident his team has enough quality to avoid the drop.
"We want to make sure we are in this league next season," he said.
"That's the most important thing and we need our fans to stay with us.
"There's no point in blaming or pointing fingers. You have to graft together as a group.
"My belief is that things will change. I'm not enjoying the results but I'm enjoying the challenge."
Reading emerged 2-0 home victors from their previous Premier League meeting with City in March 2008, while they also claimed a 2-0 win at the City of Manchester Stadium a season earlier.
There are some positives for Reading ahead of Saturday's match - City captain Vincent Kompany is in doubt with a hamstring injury, while Aleksandar Kolarov and Samir Nasri could also miss out.
Defender Micah Richards (knee) and midfielders Jack Rodwell and James Milner (both hamstring) remain sidelined
Reading are without goalkeeper Alex McCarthy, but defender Sean Morrison, midfielder Jem Karacan and veteran striker Jason Roberts could be available.
In reality you have to fear for Reading in this one. If City show up and make a clear statement the visitors could be in for a torrid 90 minutes. This couldn't be more of a home banker.