As we head towards mid November, it is uncharacteristic for there still to be two sides who are awaiting their first Premier League victories of the season. But that is the unfortunate situation that both Reading and QPR find themselves in as we enter the eleventh round of fixtures this weekend.
Past history doesn’t favour either of the two sides to beat the drop, only three clubs who have failed to win any of their opening ten league games have gone on to survive in the Premier League era.
But today’s fixtures present a strong opportunity for both sides to end their respective winless hoodoos. For Reading, they welcome Norwich to the Madjeski Stadium, a side who have improved markedly following a slow start but are still yet to win away from Carrow Road thus far. Norwich set an example last seaon of how a team can come up from The Championship and compete admirably at the highest level, and Reading need to use The Canaries as inspiration for the remainder of this season. Brian McDermott will see today’s game as very winnable, and without disrespecting Norwich, it is this exact sort of game that Reading need to take maximum points from if they are to have any sort of realistic hope of avoiding the drop.
As for QPR, they travel to Stoke, a notoriously tough ground for any team to travel to, regardless of their situation. But QPR’s last away win in the Premier League came on this very ground, and Mark Hughes will need to remind the players that are still in the squad from that day that they are very capable of winning this game. QPR’s away form since their return to the Premier League was been woeful at best, and to put into context how long ago that away win at Stoke was, Neil Warnock was still at the helm.
Although both Reading and QPR are without a win, it is Southampton who are propping up the table. With eight defeats from ten, and having the division’s comfortably worst defence, it hasn’t been the most promising of openings for Southampton upon their much-anticipated Premier League return. They too, however, will see today as an opportunity of picking up three crucial points as they entertain Swansea at St Mary’s. After a stunning start from The Swans under new boss Michael Laudrup, their season has tailed off somewhat and are very much beatable away from The Liberty Stadium.
With Nigel Adkins admitting that his job is under threat after his side’s disappointing 2-0 defeat at West Brom, you sense that anything less than three points today will only see that pressure mount further. The fact that Adkins is feeling under pressure after guiding Southampton to successive promotions underlines just how ruthless the Premier League is, and the newly promoted duo of Southampton and Reading have struggled to make the adaptation so far.
The main problem for all three sides who currently occupy the relegation places is that they are all in real danger of being cut adrift at the bottom if results don’t improve quickly and efficiently. With Aston Villa and Norwich both picking up crucial wins last weekend, the gap between the bottom three and 17th place has already grown to four points. At the moment, that gap is just about manageable, but were it to grow any further then you really do fear for Southampton, Reading and QPR.
It is, therefore, of paramount importance that they stay in contention, and today’s fixtures presents an excellent opportunity to do just that. All three games are very much winnable, so it will be interesting to see how this afternoon’s results pan out.