Karanka makes Forest exit

Nottingham Forest have parted company with head coach Aitor Karanka, with the club just outside the Championship play-off places.

The 45-year-old took charge at the City Ground in January 2018, having previously guided Middlesbrough to promotion to the Premier League in 2016.

Karanka started his senior coaching career as an assistant at Real Madrid, the club where he spent five years as a player, in between two spells with Athletic Bilbao.

A short statement from Forest confirmed: "Aitor Karanka has asked to be released from his contract as the manager of Nottingham Forest Football Club.

"The club have agreed to this request and the terms of departure have been agreed. Both parties wish each other every success for the future and there will be no further comment from either party."

Forest, currently seventh in the table, have only won one of their last six Championship games, but that victory came last time out when they saw off table-toppers Leeds United 4-2 at the City Ground.

Following that, what turned out to be Karanka's last game in charge came in a 2-0 FA Cup third round defeat at Chelsea.

The Midlanders are back in action on Saturday when they travel to lowly Reading, with the visitors side 6/5 to win the game, while the draw is priced at 12/5 and a 1-1 final scoreline is available at 5/1.

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Lukaku and Sanchez set to start

Strikers Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez will both start for Manchester United in their FA Cup third round clash with Reading on Saturday.

Belgium international Lukaku has scored in both of his last two appearances, finding the net against both Bournemouth and Newcastle United after coming on as a substitute.

Meanwhile, Chile frontman Sanchez has not started a game since early November, but made his first appearance since later that month when he came on just past the hour mark of the 2-0 win over the Magpies.

Now both men will get an opportunity to make a bigger impression on interim boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who also suggested that rejuvenated midfield ace Paul Pogba will sit out the game due to a knock.

He told reporters. "I'm not sure if Paul's going to be ready, he got a knock against Newcastle.

"There will be a few changes – some of them are itching now to play of course. Lukaku and Sanchez will start, that's important for them because they need more game time."

Solskjaer has enjoyed a perfect start to his time in charge at Old Trafford, winning four in a row, with the Red Devils scoring a total of 14 goals in victories over Cardiff City, Huddersfield Town, Bournemouth and Newcastle.

And the former United striker is eager to continue that fine run of form, adding: "Obviously when you come into a club like this you expect to win games.

"And when you win four, you expect to win the next one as well. I think we can win every single game."

United and Reading met in the third round of the FA Cup two years ago, when the hosts powered to a 4-0 success at Old Trafford.

The Red Devils are 1/8 to win in 90 minutes on Saturday and are 13/2 to claim another 4-0 victory, with United 8/15 to keep a clean sheet.

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Royals hail Gomes appointment

Reading chief executive Nigel Howe claims the appointment of Jose Gomes as their new manager will bring "new energy, excitement and impetus" to the club.

The Royals confirmed the 48-year-old Portuguese tactician as the permanent successor to Paul Clement on Saturday evening following the 1-0 Championship defeat against Middlesbrough at the Madejski Stadium.

That 12th defeat of the season leaves the Berkshire side just outside of the relegation places on goal difference ahead of Millwall on 19 points from 23 games.

Gomes has vast experience of working in Portugal with the likes of worked at Porto and Benfica, while he returned to his homeland with Rio Ave in the summer after a stint in Saudi Arabia.

Reading agreed a one million euros compensation package to take Gomes and he has penned a two-and-a-half year deal, while caretaker boss Scott Marshall will continue working at the club.

Speaking about the appointment of Gomes, Howe told the club's website: "I am absolutely delighted that, in Jose Gomes, we have been able to secure the services of a manager with a very impressive reputation in his native Portugal.

"He brings new energy, excitement and impetus to Reading Football Club and, importantly, he boasts a reputation of creating winning teams with an exciting brand of football.

"I would like to personally welcome Jose to Madejski Stadium and look forward to working closely with him and his coaching team to help to drive this club forward."

The Royals, who are 8/13 to be relegated from the Championship, face a huge game at Millwall on Boxing Day and are 15/4 to pick up three points in Gomes' first match at the helm. The Lions are 7/10 to win and the draw is 11/4.

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Royals hails Gomes appointment

Reading chief executive Nigel Howe claims the appointment of Jose Gomes as their new manager will bring "new energy, excitement and impetus" to the club.

The Royals confirmed the 48-year-old Portuguese tactician as the permanent successor to Paul Clement on Saturday evening following the 1-0 Championship defeat against Middlesbrough at the Madejski Stadium.

That 12th defeat of the season leaves the Berkshire side just outside of the relegation places on goal difference ahead of Millwall on 19 points from 23 games.

Gomes has vast experience of working in Portugal with the likes of worked at Porto and Benfica, while he returned to his homeland with Rio Ave in the summer after a stint in Saudi Arabia.

Reading agreed a one million euros compensation package to take Gomes and he has penned a two-and-a-half year deal, while caretaker boss Scott Marshall will continue working at the club.

Speaking about the appointment of Gomes, Howe told the club's website: "I am absolutely delighted that, in Jose Gomes, we have been able to secure the services of a manager with a very impressive reputation in his native Portugal.

"He brings new energy, excitement and impetus to Reading Football Club and, importantly, he boasts a reputation of creating winning teams with an exciting brand of football.

"I would like to personally welcome Jose to Madejski Stadium and look forward to working closely with him and his coaching team to help to drive this club forward."

The Royals, who are 8/13 to be relegated from the Championship, face a huge game at Millwall on Boxing Day and are 15/4 to pick up three points in Gomes' first match at the helm. The Lions are 7/10 to win and the draw is 11/4.

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Downing: Promotion now a must

Veteran Middlesbrough midfielder Stewart Downing says his side have to refocus on trying to secure promotion, having crashed out of the Carabao Cup to Burton Albion.

The Championship outfit missed out on reaching the last four of the League Cup when they were beaten 1-0 by the visiting Brewers on Tuesday evening.

And former England international Downing has warned that there is no time for he and his colleagues to feel sorry for themselves, with a return to the Premier League the ultimate aim for the Teessiders this season.

He told The Gazette: "Now the big thing is the league. That was the most important thing at the start of the season and is still the top priority.

"Yes, we should have beaten Burton and got to a semi-final, but we can't dwell on that. It's gone – now we have to get promoted."

Boro are currently sixth in the Championship table, having failed to win any of their last four games, with head coach Tony Pulis warning that a continuation of that poor form over the busy festive period could prove fatal to their promotion hopes.

He added on the club's official website: "We've got to show some character now.

"We've got a really busy Christmas period coming up, a lot of tough games and games we've got to do well in."

Next up for Boro is a trip to lowly Reading on Saturday, with the visitors 10/11 to take all three points at the Madejski Stadium, while the draw is priced at 5/2.

Meanwhile, the Teessiders are 10/3 to gain promotion come the end of the season.

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Clement axed by ailing Royals

Championship strugglers Reading have sacked head coach Paul Clement, with the Royals having won just one of their last seven league games.

The 46-year-old former Derby County and Swansea City boss only took charge at the Madejski Stadium in March, helping the club avoid relegation to League One.

However, the Royals find themselves entrenched in another relegation dogfight this season, with Reading currently outside the bottom three on goal difference only.

A club statement confirmed: "Reading Football Club can announce that Paul Clement has left his position as manager of the club with immediate effect.

"CEO Nigel Howe will seek to swiftly identify and appoint a new manager who will fit the Reading mould, build a team which can deliver performances and results that will help us climb the Championship table and lead the club towards promotion in the future."

Clement had struck a positive note following a 2-2 weekend draw with Stoke City, telling reporters: "The concern is the position in the league, we are still not clear of it. My view is that if you string performances together, results will follow.

"You can't say we've played poorly in the last two games against Stoke and Leeds. Yes, we picked up one point, but we haven't played poorly.

"If you continue to play well results will follow, I'm convinced of that. That will be the objective."

Reading are priced at 1/1 to be relegated this season, with Rotherham United 11/8 and Hull City 4/1.

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‘Suffering’ Clement up for the fight

Reading boss Paul Clement says he still believes his players are behind him and are capable of climbing out of the Championship relegation zone.

The Royals are 6/5 to go down this season after a run of three wins from their first 15 matches, Clement's men going down to his old club Swansea on Saturday.

The 2-0 loss in Wales was Reading's fourth in the last five matches and heaps more pressure on Clement, who only just kept the Berkshire outfit in the second tier on the final day of last season.

The ex-Derby and Swansea manager has only won five of his 23 Championship matches at the helm since taking over at the Madjeski Stadium and he says no one is suffering more than him during their bad run.

Clement says he won't be walking from Reading though, claiming he and the rest of the squad are ready to dig and battle for their Premier League survival.

"I understand that with each defeat, the pressure grows on me," he told BBC Radio Berkshire.

"But, there's no one more disappointed than myself. I'm the coach of this team, I pick the team."

"For anyone who thinks they're suffering, they're not suffering as much as I am," Clement added.

"It's been a really disappointing season so far. But I said to the players that, while I feel you are with me, I will continue to fight.

"I haven't worked for 20 years in my coaching career to get a fantastic job like this to give up and walk away when it gets tough. A lot of hard work has gone in personally to get this sort of position."

Reading have back-to-back matches at home in the Championship next, starting with the visit of Bristol City before taking on bottom of the table Ipswich.

The Royals are 2/1 to get the win when the Robins come to town, while Lee Johnson's men are 27/20 and the draw is 23/10.

Gracia ponders his options

Javi Gracia admits some of his fringe first-team players have given him a selection headache for Watford's Premier League clash against Tottenham.

After the Hornets had eased to a 2-0 Carabao Cup win over Reading on Wednesday, Gracia picked out Nathaniel Chalobah and Stefano Okaka, who were making their first appearances of the season, for special praise.

Isaac Success and Domingos Quina scored the goals against the Championship side, who are 7/4 to be relegated this season, while Watford are available at 17/4 to make it four Premier League victories in a row on Sunday by beating Spurs.

Gracia said after making 11 changes to his starting line-up: "I think Chalobah deserves this game and Stefano Okaka as well because they are players who have had a long period out injured.

"It is good for them, good for the team, for me, for the club and the supporters. We have enjoyed playing with players that do not usually play in the Premier League.

"It is a difficult situation for me but, as I usually do, I will try to choose the players who are the best option for the next game.

"I know my decisions are not fair with some players because I can only take 18 and I would like to take more players. It is not possible and I know my decisions will be hard but it is my job to do that."

Deeney vows to keep improving

Watford striker Troy Deeney is enjoying his football this season and is keen to carry on playing at the top level for as long as possible.

The 30-year-old, who scored in the 3-1 victory against Burnley earlier this month, moved to Vicarage Road from Walsall eight years ago and has scored an impressive 106 goals in 312 league appearances for the Hornets, who have won their first three top-flight matches of the campaign.

Deeney is 7/5 to score at any time on Wednesday in the Carabao Cup second-round tie at Reading, 7/4 to be relegated from the Championship this season.

Deeney said: "They say by 30 your career is going downhill. Well I reckon the people who said that never had a career or didn't work hard enough when they got to 30.

"I am going to try and be more like the Premier League players who ignored their age and carved out something to be proud of for their career north of 30.

"Let's see what happens but I am pleased with how it's started. It is all about today now. This league never does you a favour or gives you a breather."

Watford are 2/1 to finish in the top half of the Premier League this season.

Clement seals Yiadom coup

Reading manager Paul Clement believes the capture of the former Barnsley defender Andy Yiadom is a major coup for the Royals.

The 26-year-old Ghana international has spent the last two seasons at Oakwell but his contract with the Tykes has expired.

He previously played more than 150 games for Barnet having starred for Hayes  & Yeading and Braintree earlier in his career.

"I am very happy that Andy is joining Reading as my first signing since I have been here," said former Derby County and Swansea City boss Clement, who succeeded Jaap Stam as Royals manager in March.

"He is someone that I have known for a while and whose progress I was tracking when I was at Swansea. So I am very happy that he has joined us on a long-term contract.

"He comes here with valuable experience of the Championship – he's a good age too, and he has the right desires and ambitions which will help us to move forward with this club. We're delighted to get this signing over the line so early."

Meanwhile, Fulham are 8/13 to be promoted to the Premier League this season and Aston Villa can be backed at 6/5.