Southampton make a lunchtime trip to bottom-of-the-table side Reading on Saturday for a 12.45pm kick-off at Madejski Stadium.
The game has been brought forward for live television coverage on Sky Sports 2 with Saints going in search of a third consecutive Barclays Premier League win after seeing off both Liverpool and Chelsea at St Mary’s in recent weeks.
Mauricio Pochettino’s men now have 34 points from 31 games played and have jumped up to 12th in the league table, but only six points separates West Ham in eleventh down to Aston Villa in 18th so there’s still plenty to play for heading into the final seven matches of the campaign.
For Reading, the match must surely be considered as make-or-break with the Royals currently propping up the table and currently seven points adrift of Wigan in 17th place.
They turned to former Saints manager Nigel Adkins last week to replace Brian McDermott, as they seek an against the odds comeback from avoiding the drop back into the Championship, just one season after both teams were promoted into the top-flight.
Back in December under Adkins, Saints were 1-0 winners in the reverse fixture with Jason Puncheon’s solitary second half strike proving enough to earn the hosts a win in the first ever top-flight meeting between the two teams.
There have been many names over the years to represent both teams, but current connections include former Royal Graeme Murty who is currently coaching in the Saints Academy, whilst Reading players Danny Guthrie, Alex Pearce and Nicholas Bignall have all featured in loan spells for Southampton.
Another point of note is that Nathaniel Clyne’s first ever professional goal came for Crystal Palace against Reading in a 4-2 in during December 2009.
Skipper Adam Lallana was an absentee from the win over Chelsea with a groin strain and will be assessed again ahead of the weekend.
Goalkeeper Artur Boruc was withdrawn at half-time last Saturday after complaining of dizziness, but is expected to be back in contention at the Madejski. Uruguayan playmaker Gastón Ramírez was an unused substitute against the European Champions after a late arrival back from international duty, so will hope to return this weekend.
Reading hope to have ‘keeper Alex McCarthy back from a long-term shoulder injury. Saturday may come too soon however for the shot stopper, with Stuart Taylor likely to remain between the posts for the Royals.
It’s almost eighteen months since our last trip to Reading, which was also a televised clash as we played out a 1-1 draw in Berkshire.
Steve De Ridder rescued a point for the visitors who were reduced to ten men late on when Dean Hammond was sent off.
Both clubs would go on to contest promotion to the Premier League and battle it out for the Championship title, with the Royals running out 3-1 winners in the reverse fixture last April to help them on their way to the division’s prize.
Southampton would go some way towards earning revenge with a 1-0 win at St Mary’s earlier this season in the first ever top-fight meeting between the two teams.
The last Saints win at the Madejski came in 2008, when Bradley Wright-Phillips’ double helped us to a 2-1 win.
Overall, the two teams have played one-another on 40 occasions in league and cup. 11 of those have gone the way of the Royals, 15 have resulted in Saints wins and 14 in draws.
Mike Jones will referee Saturday’s game, and he will be assisted by Mr P Kirkup and Mr S Burt. Phil Dowd is the fourth official.
Important notice for supporters making the journey by rail.
Click here for full details.
Please note that there are planned engineering works at Reading train station this weekend.
Supporters are advised that the Cross Country Trains direct from Southampton will not stop at Reading Station, but will instead call at Reading West Station.
However, trains from Basingstoke or Newbury will arrive at Reading station as normal.
The recommended route by train from Southampton is to change at Basingstoke for a train into Reading Station using the hourly First Great Western Service.
For times, please check www.firstgreatwestern.co.uk/reading
You can listen to live commentary courtesy of BBC Solent on Saints Player, where you can keep up to date with all the stats and scores from around the country.
Mauricio Pochetiino will speak to Saints Player ahead of the game, and you will be able to watch his interview – as well as the full press conference – before Saturday.
Fans travelling to Berkshire are asked to contribute to our next official matchday programme by sending in their pictures via Twitter and Instagram – just add the hashtag #MarchingIn.
You can also email your photos from throughout your trip north to firstname.lastname@example.org