As we come hurtling towards the final strait of this particularly gruelling Championship season, more than survival will be on the minds of Reading fans as their team takes to the turf at Molineux. No, indeed, on Tuesday night it will not only be the Royals’ Championship status that Jaap Stam’s men will be fighting for, but also quite possibly the chance to preserve the legacy of the finest side to have ever worn the blue and white hoops of Reading.
With 10 games left this season, Wolves still remain within reach of equalling the Royals’ record-breaking tally of the 2005-06 season. Despite a 4-1 trashing at Villa Park on Saturday, victory in all of their remaining games would see the Black Country side finish with exactly 106 points, equaling the seemingly unbeatable target set by Steve Coppell’s men twelve years ago.
Whilst (as we all know) the Royals remain hopelessly out of form, one ray of hope for the visitors is that Wolves too have been misfiring of late. Seemingly untouchable and unplayable for most of the season, the big-spending Midlanders have won just one game in five, and could be ripe for the picking come Tuesday night if their end of the season jitters continue. However, to do so, the Royals will need to break their own winless run.
Form (all comps): LLDDL
Overturning the runaway leaders of the Championship is no mean feat. Doing so when you have only won once since Christmas is even more of an achievement. That is the challenge facing the Royals at Molineux, with Jaap Stam’s side knowing that with just a six point gap between themselves and the trap door to third-tier football, they desperately need to find a win from somewhere.
Despite a positive and spirited first-half performance against Leeds United on Saturday, a lacklustre display after the break means that few will give the Royals a hope to leave Wolverhampton with anything to their name.
Injuries could be a determining factor in the result, with Stam unable to call on Omar Richards, Paul McShane and Tommy Elphick, whilst Chris Martin missed out against Leeds with illness. John Swift may return to the starting XI following his substitute appearance against the Yorkshire side. Yann Kermorgant and Garath McCleary will definitely be missing for the trip to the Midlands.
Form (all comps): WWDDL
The arrival of the Beast from the East for the original fixture was fitting for Wolves fans. Leading the way for most of the season, their champagne has very much been put on ice (I know, a long way to go for a so-so joke), as the chasing pack have closed down Nuno Espírito Santo’s men.
After Wolves’ loss on Saturday, Cardiff City are just three points behind them. Defeat to the Villans means that vulnerabilities do indeed exist, but can Reading exploit any chinks in the armour?
However, with their joint league top scorers Leo Bonatini and Ivan Cavaleiro, who bagged against the Royals in Wolves 2-0 win at the Mad Stad in November, both fit to lead the line, the league leaders will still have plenty of firepower available to take on a Reading backline that is shipping goals for fun.
Injury worries and this dire run of form means that sadly, I cannot see us getting anything against the champions-elect.
Wolves 3-1 Reading
Do you agree with our prediction?
This poll is closed
Yes - Wolves to remain leaders of the pack
Draw - One point is better than none!
No - Royals to pull off one of the shocks of the season!