Our first encounter back in the top flight comes against Tony Pulis' uncompromising Stoke City side at the Madejski Stadium.
Promoted as Championship winners after a quite extraordinary second half of the season when we went on a superb run, this season will be all about survival. Only our third season in the top division in 142 years of existence, we finished 8th in our first campaign in 2006/07 before being relegated on the final day of the following season, despite a 4-0 win at Derby.
Game is understandably pretty much a sell-out and in terms of team news for us, Jason Roberts in the one definite absentee as he serves the second game of a three-match suspension carried over from the draw with Crystal Palace toward the end of last season. New signing Pavel Pogrebnyak is expected to lead the line for us on Saturday along with last season's top scorer Adam Le Fondre.
Jimmy Kebe will also miss out as he recovers from a hamstring tear picked up a few weeks ago, new boy Garath McCleary will probably make his debut in Kebe's place. Fellow wideman Jobi McAnuff missed our friendly with Palace at the weekend but is expected to be fit for this, Hal Robson-Kanu should be on hand to deputise if the skipper doesn't make it.
For Stoke, this season will be about continuing to establish themselves as a genuine Premier League outfit and building on last season, which was viewed as a bit of a slump after such a high finish the season before. With no European distractions this time around and one or two new signings, they might well be fancying a crack at the top 10.
Personally very nervous but also excited for the opener. Good to be at home for this, and the atmosphere should be decent, with Stoke helping out by bringing a large away following. We are sure to be tested to the limit by their infamous physical style but it's a winnable game in my mind.
Not a great spectacle by any means. We looked a bit nervous and we got the usual physical nonsense from Stoke but struggled massively to really create any clear cut chances.
Started off fine, knocked it around a bit without really threatening but a lot of niggly fouls from the visitors disrupted what little flow the game actually had.
We went behind shortly before the break after an uncharacteristic blunder from Adam Federici. Stoke debutant Micheal Kightly, who was probably their best player on the day, struck a very weak effort at goal and Feds made a real howler in trying to gather it and it ended up rolling under his body and into the back of the net.
Game improved slightly into the second half, but we didn't really have any momentum until winger Garath McCleary replaced Hal Robson-Kanu as the clock ticked on. His pace, trickery and skill proved a real handful for Stoke, and he linked up very well with Chris Gunter.
Despite McCleary's arrival turning the tide of the game in our favour, we still struggled to create any clear-cut chances. Pogrebnyak was replaced by Noel Hunt late on after being well taken care of by the formidable duo of Ryan Shawcross and Robert Huth. Stoke weren't creating anything either and it looked like we would suffer a disappointing opening day defeat until we were given a penalty in stoppage time.
McCleary was felled in the box by Dean Whitehead, who received a second yellow card for his troubles. Adam Le Fondre showed nerves of steel to step up after what seemed like an age to secure a 1-1 draw, with Begovic diving the right way but still unable to keep it out.
Overall an adequate opener, but we still look like we could benefit by one or two more arrivals. We need to lose those nerves and stop resorting to long balls when their seems to be nothing on. Not a lot of time to dwell on this one as we go to Stamford Bridge on Wednesday evening.
Larry7580 wrote:certainly going to need to improve and quick the worrying thing was we didn't create much up front .
Indeed. Hopefully Pogrebnyak will grow into the role and Le Fondre will adapt quickly to the pace of the Premier League. Thought Alfie looked a bit nervous yesterday and rushed things in possession whilst Pog was well-handled by Huth and Shawcross. The main problem was we kept panicking on the ball and lofting it long, which obviously played right into Stoke's hands.
On a positive note though, Federici howler aside, the defence looked fairly solid again. I think Gunter will prove to be a very shrewd signing.
Wasn't particularly his fault though, he was given very little service indeed. We were panicking a lot in possession and resorted to lofting a lot of balls in the air and he wasn't really able to compete with the aerial dominance of Huth and Shawcross at the back.
Looked good with the ball at his feet though. With better service I'm sure he will get goals for us.