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Preview: Reading vs. Brighton & Hove Albion

:Headline: Preview: Reading vs. Brighton & Hove Albion:
Sports Mole previews Saturday afternoon's Championship clash between league leaders Brighton & Hove Albion and fellow promotion chasers Reading.
By , Senior Reporter | 3y

Brighton & Hove Albion head to Reading on Saturday afternoon aiming to prolong their unbeaten start to the season to a 14th game.

The Seagulls' positive form has seen them claim top spot at this early stage, while their opponents have slipped down the division of late and now find themselves in seventh place.


Everything was looking rosy for the Royals just a fortnight ago, as a four-match winning run lifted the club up to second place in the league table.

One point from two games since then, including an incredible collapse at Craven Cottage last time out, has left Reading sitting outside of the playoff zone altogether.

To make matters worse for Steve Clarke, influential midfield figure Aaron Tshibola has been ruled out for up to three months, while Chelsea loanee Lucas Piazon is now the subject of an arrest warrant.

While Piazon is yet to have been charged with anything, Reading will have to tread a thin line over the Brazilian's involvement with allegations emerging on Thursday afternoon that he sexually assaulted a 21-year-old woman during the summer.

Despite the setbacks, both on and off the field, Reading are still well placed to get their promotion charge back on track this weekend should they overcome Brighton - a side they have fared well against in recent times.

Conceding four second-half goals at Fulham certainly does not suggest that Reading are a side of top-six quality, but prior to their two-match winless run it had been a different story.

Between mid-August and mid-October, only league favourites Derby County could halt the Royals' charge, with six victories racked up during that run.

Nick Blackman in particular proved to be a key figure during that impressive streak, and his 10 goals in 11 outings certainly offers hope that the Berkshire outfit can return to winning ways this weekend.

Recent form in Championship: WWWWDL
Recent form (all competitions): LWWWDL

Brighton & Hove Albion

Like their opponents, Brighton have also suffered a few disappointments of their own over the past month after being held by a number of bottom-half sides.

Despite draws against Wolverhampton Wanderers, Bolton Wanderers and most recently Preston North End, as well as a home stalemate against eighth-placed Cardiff City, Albion still boast a four-point lead at the top.

That can largely be put down to six wins from seven games at the start of the campaign, as last season's disappointment was quickly put to one side right from the off.

Boss Chris Hughton will no doubt be feeling annoyed by the dropped point though, particularly following the goalless draw with Preston North End on home soil last weekend.

Brighton can still hold claim to having the joint-third best defence in the division thus far, conceding just 10 goals in all, while in an attacking sense things may start to pick up again once Kazenga LuaLua returns.

One of the Seagulls' biggest attacking threats has been out for over a month now with a groin injury, leaving extra pressure on summer signing Tomer Hemed to find the net.

The Israel international has settled well on the South Coast, top-scoring with five goals in all competitions so far to win Brighton nine points - the highest such tally in the division.

Hemed's goals have dried up of late, though, with no way through since the middle of September to perhaps explain why Hughton's men hardly boast the best attacking stats for a side at the top.

Regardless of the recent blip of sorts it is Albion who remain at the summit for a reason, with their club record unbeaten start now standing at 13 games.

Recent form in Championship: DDDWWD

Team News

Brighton were dealt a big blow in the build-up to the match with the news that Gaetan Bong will miss the remainder of the year due to a thigh injury.

Skipper Gordon Greer and midfielder Dale Stephens are also doubts for the trip to the Madejski Stadium, while LuaLua's return will have to wait for at least another few days.

There is some good news, though, as Beram Kayal will return to the heart of the starting lineup following his one-match ban, with Jake Forster-Caskey another midfield option after returning from his MK Dons loan.

They may have lost Tshibola for three months, and potentially Piazon for even longer through off-field issues, but Reading have recently welcomed back Anton Ferdinand, Jonathan Bond and Matej Vydra.

It is the return of the latter in particular that will excite Clarke, with the Watford loanee's attacking nous key to any hopes the Royals have of earning promotion, although he could not get off the mark at Fulham.

Reading possible starting lineup:
Habsi; Gunter, Hector, McShane, Obita; Fernandez, Williams, Norwood; Sa, Vydra, Blackman

Brighton & Hove Albion possible starting lineup:
Stockdale; Bruno, Dunk, Hunemeier, Calderon; Rosenior, Stephens, Kayal, Murphy; Baldock, Hemed

Head To Head

The Royals have won seven and drawn three of their last 10 meetings with Brighton in the league.

Albion have also picked up maximum points just once in their last 10 trips to Berkshire.

Reading won the last encounter 2-1 in March, thanks to Jamie Mackie goals either side of a Chris O'Grady pen.

We say: Reading 1-1 Brighton & Hove Albion

Brighton have seemingly fallen into a habit of drawing games of late which, at the moment at least, does not seem to be doing them too much harm at the top. Reading boast an impressive record against the Seagulls, which will continue on Saturday with a well-fought stalemate.

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