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Leeds United v Reading FC: Key Battles

Sam looks ahead to an away game against 'sleeping giants' Leeds United.

Martin Willetts/Getty Images

Following a last-gasp loss away at Middlesbrough and the controversy that followed the Royals must put it behind them and focus on a tricky test away at Leeds. The Reading faithful have been restless of late and a good performance would help sooth some restless fans for the moment at least.

Leeds much like Reading have had a slow season. They sit one place below Reading with both teams on 51 points. Leeds dampened Birmingham's play-off hopes after a 2-1 win. Alex Mowatt will not feature after seeing red late on, so who will decide this game?

Lewis Cook vs Stephen Quinn

Quinn provides a work rate and energy that the rest of our midfielders often lack. He's not—nor will he ever be—one of the biggest or strongest players on the pitch, but you wouldn't know that from the way he flies into challenges. I like that Quinn keeps is head up even when it's just not his day. His willingness to slot into any position is admirable and I think Quinn often deserves more credit than he gets. One thing that is for certain, Quinn will be very busy on Saturday.

Lewis Cook is one of the Championship's promising young stars and his potential is up there with the likes of Oliver Burke and Moussa Dembele. Cook has risen through the ranks at Leeds and has been ever present this season with 42 total appearances in both the league and cup competitions. The 19-year-old is industrious and is really the beating heart of the Leeds midfield.

Stuart Dallas vs Garath McCleary

Stuart Dallas scored a beautiful brace against Birmingham on Tuesday and ultimately got his team the win. The Royals will be hoping the same thing doesn't occur on Saturday. Although not the quickest wide midfielder I've seen all year Dallas has a powerful shot as proved by his second goal; a wonderful twenty yard Volley. Dallas has also shown how effective it can be when a winger gets close to his striker and has benefited greatly from Chris Wood's aerial presence. Reading will have to close him down as quickly as possible, because if he is allowed a shot he will take it. Dallas is a player in great form and could really hurt the Royals on Saturday.

On the opposite side of the field fan favourite Garath McCleary will be hoping to have a similar impact. After recently returning from injury McCleary has been shut out by Lucas Piazon but I certainly wouldn't be surprised if McDermott decides to play the Jamaican on Saturday. McCleary makes smart runs down the channel and will hope he can use his pace and trickery to get past defenders. McCleary has always had a knack for scoring, and when he does score, it tends to be an excellent goal. Royals fans will be hoping for some McCleary magic at the weekend.

Ali Al-Habsi vs Chris Wood

He's had great games, he's had poor games; he's bailed us out and made simple errors. Ali Al-Habsi has been magnificent at times this season and cemented himself as the Royal's first choice goalie. Reading fans have certainly taken to him. Al-Habsi has pulled off some phenomenal saves and you can see why he was a Premier League keeper for many a year. However, Leeds have some quality strikers and Al-Habsi will have to command his box—especially from set pieces.

Chris Wood's lovely knock down for Leed's second goal against Birmingham is exactly what the Reading strikers should be doing. He's excellent in the air and always gives Leeds and escape route. He has a tidy finish too, but his main threat will come from long balls, set pieces and crosses. I can certainly see Wood scoring against a shaky Reading defence. It's worth noting he was also man of the match against Reading in August.