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Familiar faces and new names on show in Ipswich’s trip to Reading

Five of the last six fixtures between Reading and Ipswich Town have been decided by a single-goal margin, and all in the Royals’ favour, so Coral make Steve Clarke’s side firm 23/20 favourite for a home win on Friday night.

Berkshire outfit Reading will have to belie their mediocre start to the season in order to topple the Tractor Boys, who at 5/2 for victory, should be targeting three points that can temporarily take them top of the Championship table. A draw, meanwhile, is priced at 9/4.

Clarke has made clever loan signings to boost the Royals attack and make it more ruthless. Established internationals like Jamaica’s Garath McCleary and Wales forward Hal Robson-Kanu now have competition for places thanks to the acquisitions of Benfica’s Netherlands cap Ola John and Watford-owned Czech Republic striker Matej Vydra, who played under the coach at West Bromwich Albion.

Soccer - Reading FC Sign Matej Vydra - Madejski Stadium

A Reading squad that looked somewhat lightweight at the start of the season now has real strength in depth, with Clarke using his Chelsea connections to also land Brazilian prospect Lucas Piazon, 11/4 for a debut goal in this game. Peru winger Paolo Hurtado (10/3 anytime) completes the new-look Royals roster.

“I’ve now got really good options in forward areas, which perhaps is something I didn’t have before,” Clarke said in a recent interview with local radio. “I think they have all settled in really well. As a manager, I’ve chosen to make some changes to the squad, but that’s what I’m paid for.

“I will have to be clever and intelligent in how I use those resources, when to put players in, when to leave players out, find different ways of playing which can upset the opposition. When I look at the squad we’ve got now and the creativity, I think it’s a team that will create chances and score goals.”

Soccer - Capital One Cup - Second Round - Portsmouth v Reading - Fratton Park

Punters can pretty much take their pick from a cadre of forwards, but may want to be wary of proven Championship performer Vydra, who has never scored against and always lost to Ipswich in three previous attempts. McCleary has two in four career starts when facing the Suffolk side, however, so siding with a familiar name could pay dividends at 7/2 to net again in the anytime market.

While Reading appear to have an embarrassment of riches, Mick McCarthy can hardly say the same. The Tractor Boys boss had to sell star defender Tyrone Mings for £8m before he could spend, but it is his continually cunning use of Bosmans that creates competition for places.

Soccer - Sky Bet Championship - Middlesbrough v Ipswich - Riverside Stadium

Giles Coke and Jonathan Douglas are seasoned central midfielders that allow others the freedom to go forward in support of new striker Brett Pitman, who loves scoring against the Royals. Three goals in as many starts make anytime odds of 2/1 well worth taking.

It remains to be seen whether coup capture Tommy Oar – an Australia international netted for nothing after his release by Eredivisie outfit Utrecht – will be involved. Other supporting roles behind Pitman should go to diminutive forward Freddie Sears and fellow Bournemouth alumnus Ryan Fraser, as Republic of Ireland duo David McGoldrick and Daryl Murphy are yet to replicate their form.

Both Fraser and Sears have impressed, meanwhile, with three goals apiece this season and will look to carry on their fine form at the Madejski. Sears is a 13/2 chance to break the deadlock, while young Cherries loanee Fraser is an awesome 11/2 to net again anytime.

Coral’s top tip: Back Ipswich to belie their recent record in this fixture with a win but Reading to score at a terrific 13/2.