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Reading FC v Preston North End: Key Battles

With the season all but done, who will decide Reading's last home match?

Dave Thompson/Getty Images

After going to QPR away myself, it will please most fans to know it was a much better all round performance from the Royals. Deniss Rakels was a pleasing highlight; especially as he could be our main striker next season. If Reading could defend set pieces a bit better they might have got all three points.

Speaking of personnel for next season, Lucas Piazon and Michael Hector have returned to Chelsea and so naturally won't feature. It's fair to say one will be missed more than the other. Will either ever return to Reading? Perhaps.

But back to the present who will be key on Saturday?

Deniss Rakels vs Tom Clarke

I'll happily admit that when Rakels was signed in January I like many others had never heard of him. Originally from Latvia (like another Reading cult hero), his start to life with the Royals has been solid if not spectacular. He seems to me like a typical McDermott signing with an excellent work rate. He'll chase down anything and as seen last time out has a tidy finish.

Rakels will be looking to push on from his goal last week and the fans will be crossing their fingers that he can bring some good form into next season. Depending on what happens in the summer he may well become our main striker next year. That's a difficult role to fill and how well he does in it may define our season. But before all that he'll have to concentrate on unlocking a resolute Preston defence.

Despite losing last Saturday, only conceding one against champions-elect Burnley and Championship Player of the Year Andre Gray is still impressive. Key to a stubborn defence is ever present centre half Tom Clarke. The 28 year old has been quiet but confident at the back this season.

Coming up from League One was always going to a difficult for Preston, but Clarke in particular has handled it well. One thing Rakels can expose however is Clarke's height, with the defender standing at a meagre 5ft 7. A quick ball over the top for Rakels to chase should work well this weekend.

Adam Reach Vs Andrew Taylor

Adam Reach has impressed since joining on loan from high fliers Middlesbrough in January. The 23 year old could be one to look out for in the future and is an exciting prospect. Playing well all round he's chipped in with goals too: scoring five since joining on loan.

He's come against the Royals before when playing for Bradford in the FA Cup. He's quick, has a deadly left foot and definitely has a footballing brain. In a Preston side that might well come and play for a draw at the Madjeski Stadium, Reach is one of their main goal threats.

Other than an abominable back pass against Huddersfield earlier this season, Taylor has been a sturdy back up left back and has filled in well for Jordan Obita. To compare the two players directly however, would do neither player justice as they are very different players. Whilst Obita offers an extra attacking threat, Taylor is more calm defensively, and whilst being the more reliable of the two, he is much less versatile.

Taylor is not as quick as Obita, but he does allow other players to get forward without leaving as many gaps. As a centre back it must be nice to know that he isn't always going to go charging forward with the rest of the team. Defensively Taylor if selected, will have a big part to play against a counter-attacking Preston side.