Sunderland Stadium of Light

Preview: Sunderland v Reading


Big match preview ahead of home opener.

New Sunderland striker Steven Fletcher is set to feature in this Saturday's Barclays Premier League clash with Reading at the Stadium of Light.

The Scottish international put pen to paper on a four-year-deal on Friday and goes straight into Martin O'Neill's squad.

Carlos Cuellar and Louis Saha, recruited earlier this summer, are in line to make their home bows for the visit of the Royals after playing in the hard-fought goalless draw against Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium.

The result got O'Neill's first full season in charge on Wearside off to an encouraging start, with the Irishman hoping to improve on last year's mid-table finish.

Last season, Reading produced a remarkable turnaround in the second half of the campaign to pip Southampton to the Championship title and secure promotion to the Barclays Premier League.

The Royals kicked off their first campaign in England's top flight for four years with a 1-1 draw at home to Stoke City – last season's leading scorer Adam Le Fondre cancelling out Michael Kightly's opener from the penalty spot.

Brian McDermott's followed that match with an unfortunate midweek defeat at Stamford Bridge, with European champions Chelsea coming from behind to win 4-2.

Frank Lampard opened the scoring from the spot, but two goals in four minutes from Danny Guthrie and Pavel Pogrebnyak gave the visitors and unlikely lead. However, a second-half blitz from Gary Cahill, Fernando Torres and Branislav Ivanovic secured all three points for the Blues.

The two sides face each other for only the third time in the Barclays Premier League since the top flight's inception 20 years ago.

The most recent clash ended in a 2-1 win for the Royals at the Madejski Stadium in September 2007, with the Black Cats having won the corresponding fixture on Wearside by the same scoreline three months earlier.

Altogether, the two side have been in opposition just 17 times since their first meeting in 1995, with Reading winning on seven occasions to Sunderland's four victories and four matches ending in draws.

Chris Gunter and Nickey Shorey have been brought in to bolster an already strong defence – Reading kept 20 clean sheets last season – while Danny Guthrie adds Premier League experience to the midfield.

The biggest arrival of the summer has been Russian striker Pogrebnyak from VfB Stuttgart, who was impressive in 2011-12 while on loan at Fulham and has scored once in two appearances this season.