We preview Saturday's EFL Championship clash between Reading and Leeds.This is a rather strange fixture as both of these sides are in a state of virtual limbo, with the chance of automatic qualification and dropping outside the playoff spots unlikely for either. This was courtesy of excellent results for both sides in their last fixtures prior to the international break. Jaap Stam’s side stemmed the tide of a downward spiral with a surprising 2-0 away victory at fellow promotion rivals Sheffield Wednesday. Gary Monk’s Leeds produced a remarkable performance to beat high-flying Brighton 2-0, with the incomparable Chris Wood becoming the only man in the top four tiers of English football to have scored against 18 sides this season. So this could be an interesting print preview of what we could expect in the playoffs.
Reading v Leeds | Saturday 1 April | Madejski Stadium | 18:30
To Win (90 Mins)
Reading 29/20 | Draw 21/10 | Leeds 37/20
The Royals have been hugely reliant on their excellent home form in their bid to return amongst the hallowed ranks of Premier League sides. They have won 89% of their home fixture this season and only two sides in the league have collected more home points than them. Stam’s side play with an extremely traditional 4-2-3-1 formation that sees Joey van den Berg and Danny Williams anchoring the midfield. The Dutch influence of Stam is clearly evident in the likes of Van Den Berg and Roy Beerens.
Their goals have been fairly evenly distributed this campaign, with Yann Kermorgant the top scorer with ten goals. Perhaps their greatest assist is the creative influence of Gareth McCleary. His ability to come off that left-hand side and create chances for Kermorgant will keep Berardi occupied this week. Leeds will be without their regular right-back Luke Ayling through suspension, which should further encourage McCleary to get into the game.
Reading’s excellent home record is exacerbated by the fact that Leeds have been poor on the road of late. They have gone 11 away games without keeping a clean sheet and have only won 2 of their last 7 away matches. Gary Monk’s side had an inspired Robert Green to thank for keeping Brighton out in the last match. His reflexes were outstanding and showed the value of Premier League experience to those sides desperately clamouring to get into the upper echelons of English football.
In contrast to Reading, Leeds have been almost overly reliant on New Zealand international Chris Wood for their goals. They will be feeling pleased that he never played in New Zealand’s second qualifier midweek and had a rest. Pablo Hernandez was inspirational against Brighton and is the creative hub of the side. Ronaldo Vieira and Liam Bridcutt are extremely tough in midfield and should be able to give Leeds a fighting chance of getting a point at the Madejski this weekend.
Verdict: Reading to win at 29/20
This one is purely based on home form vs away form. I feel that these stats are always exacerbated when teams return from international break, with the comforts of home particularly amenable to the hosts. This will be a tight match - as most betting outlets seem to highlight - but I expect the home side to just edge it.