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Fulham v Reading FC: Play-Off First Leg Preview

All you need to know going into Saturday's first leg.

Fulham v Reading - Premier League Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images

Here we are, then. 180 minutes to determine whether it will be the Cottagers or Royals heading to Wembley in a couple of weeks to face Yorkshire's finest. Here we detail the form, injuries, key quotes, and history of the first leg.

Form

It means nothing. Sorry, but this is a play-off and there is no historical pattern for predicting a winner in either the semis or the final.

Still, to satisfy the urge, Reading have won seven of their last nine games, defeated only by Norwich City (7-1) and Nottingham Forest (3-2), which creates a thematically pleasing LWLWLW spell for the Royals in their last six matches away from home. Also worth noting from the season as a whole for Jaap Stam's men is that only Rotherham (64) have conceded more away from home than the Royals (48).

Fulham, conversely, are on the best form of all the play-off teams, winning five and drawing one of their last six. Brentford nabbed a point at Craven Cottage in their last home game but only Brighton and Wolves have won there in 2017, giving them an impression as a real tough nut to crack. Optimism for Reading comes in the form of their defence. With 32 conceded at home in the league, only two sides (you guessed it, one's Rotherham) have let in more.

Injuries

Plenty of question marks hang over the away team for the first leg, with Stam confirming in Wednesday's press conference that Garath McCleary and Paul McShane were to be assessed late in the week before they could enter the teamsheet. It seems likely the Irishman will at least be on the bench having undergone 45 minutes against Burton the week before.

Replacing McShane on that afternoon was Joey van den Berg and Stam seemed a little more optimistic that he'll be ready. The same cannot be said for Stephen Quinn, who is effectively ruled out alongside long-term absentees Callum Harriott and Deniss Rakels.

There are no real fitness worries for Slavisa Jokanovic, who rested a couple of players in their final game of the regular season, such as Ryan Sessegnon and Stefan Johansen.

Key Quotes

Jaap Stam:

"We've beaten them at home. In the play-offs it's about two games, not one or more so it's a different approach and a different level of stress for the managers and players."

"If you want to get into the final, if you want to be in the Premier League then you get even better teams than Fulham so you need to match yourself with the best teams in the league."

Liam Moore:

"It's been a fantastic season no matter what happens."

"The play-offs do crazy things to people, your livelihood is at stake as you could go to the top and remain where you are so it can go either way."

Slavisa Jokanovic:

“I don’t know what is better traditionally, home or away [first], we are happy and confident and don’t believe this is most important thing in this situation.”

“The [5-0] win is history - in this moment it's not so important. The only thing that is important is the first leg and we must be ready for everything.”

History:

Head to head record: Fulham W16 - D9 - Reading W15

Last six Craven Cottage Meetings:

Fulham 5-0 Reading (December 2016)

Fulham 4-2 Reading (October 2015)

Fulham 2-1 Reading (January 2015)

Fulham 2-4 Reading (April 2013 - Premier League)

Fulham 3-1 Reading (November 2007 - Premier League)

Fulham 0-1 Reading (November 2006 - Premier League)

Prediction

A really tough one to call, such is the momentous occasion these two teams meet in. For evry one of Reading's triumphant away days at Aston Villa and Sheffield Wednesday, there are the disparate showings at Norwich, Preston, and indeed Fulham. Given both sides' dodgy defensive records, goals are expected and if the Royals concede first, it could be an afternoon of damage limitation ahead of Tuesday's return.

2-1 to Fulham

Poll

How will Saturday's game pan out?

This poll is closed

  • 55%
    Fulham win
    (32 votes)
  • 25%
    Draw
    (15 votes)
  • 18%
    Reading win
    (11 votes)
58 votes total Vote Now