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Key Battles: Reading FC v Leeds United

The Royals return from the international break with a massive game against the mighty Leeds. Here are the key battles.

Leeds United v Burnley - Sky Bet Championship
This man has been sensational this season
Photo by Nigel Roddis/Getty Images

Paul McShane vs Chris Wood

Leeds striker Chris Wood has been in sensational form this season, with 24 goals in 36 appearances for the Whites.

Wood's goals have put him at the top of the goal-scoring charts, meaning he is surely in line to win the golden boot at the end of the season.

The New Zealander is favourite to open the scoring with odds of 4/1 on some betting organisations. If I was to pick someone to score first or anytime during the game, then Wood would be the man that I would place my money on.

The forward has all the makings of a good striker with his strength, heading and ability to make runs in behind.

If Wood gets a chance, then he will punish the Reading defence with his brilliant finishing.

However Wood has scored 43% of Leeds' goals this season, as Yann Kermorgant put it Leeds are a one man team with "no plan B."

This means that if Wood is kept quiet throughout the 90 minutes, then Reading will have a great chance of winning when the teams meet on Saturday.

Leeds manager Gary Monk confirmed at his press conference that he is confident his talisman will be fit for the huge clash at the Madjeski Stadium.

Paul McShane will be looking to make sure that Wood does not get a sniff at the Reading goal.

The centre back has returned from injury and is expected to play a huge role in defence.

The Reading captain will be key if his side are to come away with three points, as the stats show that the Royals pick up much better results when he's playing.

With Liam Moore as his partner at the back, they have proven that they can keep the very best from scoring. The 0-0 draw against Newcastle a few weeks ago is evidence that this can happen.

The Irishman's experience will be key, if Reading are to leapfrog their opponents with a win.

Tyler Blackett vs Pablo Hernandez

31 year old Pablo Hernandez signed a permanent deal in the January transfer window, having joined on loan from Qatari side Al-Arabi at the start of the season.

The former Swansea man has played a key role down the right hand side with four goals and eight assists to his name.

The Spaniard can be a tricky player at times with the winger likely to cut inside unpredictably, get shots away and also possessing the ability to get past his man with ease.

Hernandez also has the ability to put in problematic balls into the penalty area, which is something that Chris Wood loves to thrive off.

With that in mind I expect Tyler Blackett to come in at left back, as Jaap Stam may favour a more defensive approach to this game.

However when Blackett has appeared at left back, the former Manchester United man has never looked comfortable with his performances not being as good when playing in that position.

Blackett will have to be alert, if he is to stop Hernandez from pulling the strings in his side's favour.

Here's a video of Hernandez demonstrating his qualities.

Yann Kermorgant vs Pontus Jansson

Swedish centre-back Pontus Jansson has had a fantastic season for Leeds since joining them on loan from Italian side Torino.

Jansson has performed so brilliantly for the Whites that his loan will become permanent in the summer, when the 26 year old will sign a two year deal.

Having watched Leeds in their 2-1 win over Barnsley back in October, Jansson stood out for me. He's got all the abilities that a manager wants from a centre-back; he has the strength, he's got the ability to bully strikers, he's great at bringing the ball out from the back and he's got the odd trick up his sleeve. At times he was unplayable and it is no wonder that he has become adored by the Elland Road faithful.

The centre back has also been part of a back four that has conceded 36 goals. That's three more than Brighton and four more than Newcastle.

Looking to give Jansson a tough battle will be Yann Kermorgant.

The Frenchman made a important contribution last time out, by scoring the opening goal in Reading's 2-0 win at Sheffield Wednesday.

That goal leapt him to the top of the Royals goal-scoring charts for this season.

However the striker is now on the road to retirement, having made the announcement earlier this week. Kermorgant will retire at the end of next season.

If Kermorgant can continue to make all the important contributions to his sides' cause, then this could be difference between a win and a defeat.

However the centre forward will need be at his very best against a formidable opponent.