Reading-Newcastle United Preview
By TOM BENNETT
STATS European Football Writer
(AP) -- LONDON (SE) - Newcastle United host Reading at St James' Park on Saturday afternoon in match that could have a big impact on the Premier League relegation scrap.
Alan Pardew's Newcastle have slipped to 16th in the league, just two points clear of the bottom three, and have managed just a single win in their last 13 league games.
The loss of striker Demba Ba to Chelsea came as a further blow to the struggling Magpies, but Pardew thanked the fans for their continuing loyalty ahead of the upcoming battle to avoid relegation.
"I think our fans have been particularly faithful and loyal to us because we've had a tough spell with things going against us," said Pardew. "I think now we've just got to find a way, that's what we're going to have to do.
"Our gameplan that we had last year and the way we played a little bit might need to change to just make sure that we continue being a stable Premiership side and then look to next year to start going back to attacking the top of the league. I think that's really where we're at and I think our fans recognise that."
Reading are second from bottom of the Premier League and three points from safety going into the latest round of matches, but have given themselves hope with two wins from their last three league games. The stunning three-goal comeback to win 3-2 against West Bromwich Albion could prove a turning point, and manager Brian McDermott is hopeful of claiming another scalp at St James' Park.
"Alan has done wonders there, there's no doubt about that - he was manager of the year last season," said McDermott. "We all have difficult times in football, that's the nature of what we do for a living. Newcastle is a big club, they've got good players - but my concern is our team and our club.
"I've never been there (St James' Park) as a player, never been there as a manager, never been there as a scout - so I'm looking forward to going up there. I know the atmosphere is fantastic there and the ground itself is fantastic."
Newcastle have doubts over Danny Simpson (toe) and Steven Taylor (hamstring), but Hatem Ben Arfa (hamstring), Dan Gosling (knee) and Ryan Taylor (knee) are out. Reading are expected to be without Hal Robson-Kanu (knee) and Jason Roberts (hip).
All five of Newcastle's wins have come at home this season. However, only Wigan (six) have lost more home games than the Magpies (five).
Reading have yet to win away from home this season, picking up a league low two points on the road. The Royals have lost six straight away games since drawing at Queens Park Rangers in November, and have managed just one goal in their last five away from the Madejski.
It was a 2-2 draw when these teams met at the Madejski Stadium in September. Reading took the lead twice, with the since departed Demba Ba equalizing twice for Newcastle. The Royals have never taken a point at St James' Park, losing on all seven visits to the ground in the club's history.
Updated January 17, 2013