Reading and Crystal Palace were competitors last term but with the new campaign fast approaching, the two clubs have very different seasons to look forward to.
As Reading have been planning for another year in the Premier League after storming to last year’s Championship title with the sort of second-half season run that managers dream about, the financial realities of football outside the top flight have taken hold for Palace.
The Royals fully deserved to be crowned champions last year and boss Brian McDermott must take much of the credit: the former youth team coach has been a revelation since he took the top job at the Madejski Stadium and his reputation as one of the country’s brightest new coaches is fully deserved.
And even if bwin make Reading favourites for relegation at 6/5, I personally don’t expect them to make a swift return to the Championship. McDermott already boasts a decent unit and he has improved every area of the squad, making fine buys in the shape of Danny Guthrie, Chris Gunter, Adrian Mariappa and Pavel Pogrebnyak, who Reading stole from under the noses of Fulham after the Russian scored six goals in 12 games on loan for the Cottagers last term.
Both matches between the two last season finished all square, a 2-2 draw at Reading and a 0-0 draw at Palace.
Reading look well equipped to me and can follow in the footsteps of last year’s promoted trio of QPR, Norwich and Swansea, who all survived their first year in the Premier League.
The story is somewhat different for Palace, who are restricted by the same financial restraints as many lower league clubs. The Eagles had their own success to enjoy last year, with a brilliant run in the Carling Cup that included a famous 2-1 at Old Trafford over Manchester United, and the only thing that kept Dougie Freedman’s team from a Wembley final was a heart-breaking penalty shootout defeat to Cardiff City.
But despite Freedman’s obvious potential – the former Selhurst Park favourite has done a fine job under tough conditions in his first managerial post – he is always up against it and this summer proved just how much. The influential Darren Ambrose has been sold to Birmingham while star youngster Sean Scannell has moved to Huddersfield and with no money for replacements, Freedman will just be hoping to get to the magic 50 point mark as quick as possible.
Not that Palace are relegation fodder. There are still exciting and talented young players at Selhurst – none more so than Wilfried Zaha, who Palace must keep hold of – and an inconsistent season rather than a bad one can be expected.
Palace have been erratic in pre-season, as have Reading, and it makes this final pre-season match interesting. The Royals are 13/20 favourites, with Palace the outsiders at 18/5 and the draw at 5/2.
Reading have had a few strange friendly results, and haven’t actually picked up a win in three matches against Football League sides, losing to Sheffield Wednesday and drawing with Bournemouth and Brighton. They also drew with Portuguese side Olhanense, and they have scored and conceded in all but one summer outing.
Palace are perhaps showing the inconsistency we can expect from them over the coming nine months already: this week they have lost to Welling United but won at Swindon Town, and I think a small go on the draw might be the way forward here.
Both matches between the two last season finished all square, a 2-2 draw at Reading and a 0-0 draw at Palace, and with Reading a bit on the short side for a friendly and with three draws to their name already this summer, a minimum stake on that 5/2 is the play.
Recommended bet: Reading to draw with Crystal Palace @ 5/2
New customers can register here to claim a free £20 bet or click here to see all our Premier League odds.
Follow us on Twitter @bwin