There are two main reasons why Sunderland are odds-on favourites at home to Reading this Saturday: their decent home form last season and their considerable Premier League experience.
But on the evidence of last night’s gutsy performance in a 4-2 defeat by Chelsea, a plucky Reading side look in the sort of shape to negate both factors, making the 17/20 odds for a home win appear too short for this punter’s liking.
The Royals led 2-1 at the interval at Stamford Bridge before eventually succumbing to an offside Fernando Torres goal and a breakaway strike in injury-time, which was entirely down to keeper Adam Federici being stranded upfield as Reading pushed for a dramatic equaliser from a corner.
Sunderland notched up seven home wins over the last campaign, although six of those came in eight matches during the purple patch following Martin O’Neill’s arrival as manager.
Four winless Stadium of Light outings to end last season as part of nine Premier League matches without a victory makes backing the hosts pretty difficult on recent form.
Given that Sunderland have failed to score in three of their last four home matches, a low-scoring encounter looks likely and betting on one goal or less to be scored at 11/5 could well pay off.
Sunderland admittedly enjoyed a more impressive opening weekend of the two sides, gaining a 0-0 draw at Arsenal while Reading were held 1-1 at home by Stoke. That their defence is a gritty unit is without question, but Sunderland will now need to show in front of an expectant home crowd on Saturday what they can offer going forward – and there are concerns that it may not amount to much.
Reading, on the other hand, may just excel on a trip away to a middle-ranking Premier League outfit. Their tough defence and sprightly midfield has allowed them to hit Liverpool and Everton on the break in the FA Cup over the past couple of seasons for surprise away wins.
Any concerns from their curtain raiser against Stoke as to whether Reading’s attack is up to Premier League standard have perhaps been slightly alleviated by events at Stamford Bridge, where Pavel Pogrebnyak was a thorn in Chelsea’s side all evening.
The draw is available at 12/5 and Reading are priced up at 16/5 to claim all three points, while Pogrebnyak can be backed at 9/5 to score at any time or 13/2 to break the deadlock.
But given that Sunderland have failed to score in three of their last four home matches, a low-scoring encounter looks likely and betting on one goal or less to be scored at 11/5 could well pay off.
Punters joining bwin.com receive a free £20 bet and placing this on less than two goals in Sunderland v Reading would return if successful.
Under 1.5 goals is where my money will be but anyone looking for some longer prices could do worse than take the 27/4 on a 0-0 stalemate, with Reading to snatch a 1-0 away win priced at 10/1.
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