Just a little over a month since their last meeting, Reading and Barnsley will once again fight it out this Saturday in a desperate bid for Championship points.
With the two sides finding themselves sliding down towards the wrong end of the table, both the Royals and the Tykes will be hoping to end 2017 on a positive note - with neither wanting to consider the ramifications of another loss ahead of the New Year.
Form (all comps): WDLLL
No wins in four and three defeats on the spin mean that this has not been the merriest of festive periods for Royals fans - or indeed Jaap Stam. The Dutchman has cut an increasingly dejected figure in recent weeks, leading to much speculation about whether he should stay or go.
However in this fickle world of football, a win could go some way to helping alleviate some of this tension for Stam. Of all the locations in which to search for this precious win, history suggests that their are fewer more ideal for the Royals than Oakwell. Reading not lost there since 1996, winning on five of their last six visits to South Yorkshire.
Liam Kelly should return from the bout of illness that saw him miss the trip to Ashton Gate, whilst John Swift, Garath McCleary and George Evans will be subjected to late fitness tests ahead of the journey to Yorkshire.
Form (all comps): LLDLD
If some loyal Royals head into tomorrow’s game with concerns about their side’s form, then spare a thought for the Barnsley fans. It has been nine league games since the Tykes last victory over Birmingham City, with their winless run stretching back all the way to November 4. This date also marks the last occasion that Barnsley managed to score at home, with the Yorkshiremen now resting perilously close to the Championship relegation zone.
Like his Dutch counterpart Stam, Tykes’ manager Paul Heckingbottom is also a man under pressure. To assist him in his hour of need could be club captain - and former Reading FC youth product - Angus MacDonald, who will make his first appearance for the club since early November if he passes a fitness test ahead of tomorrow’s clash. Summer signing Brad Potts could also be in line for a return from the sidelines after a short period of illness.
The Royals have been poor in recent weeks, but given their past record against Barnsley and the torrid run of form that the Tykes find themselves in, I think Reading will finish the year with a flourish.
Tykes 0-2 Royals
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