After last week’s disappointing result to Sheffield United, Reading come home to face arguably their most important game of the season against fellow strugglers Rotherham United. José Gomes has stressed in his comments to the press that his team are up for the challenge and “know exactly how important this game is”. Whoever wins gains a healthy three-point gap and pushes their rivals into the relegation mess.
So the stakes are indeed massive at this stage of the season. Will Reading’s recent home form help secure victory or will Rotherham add more drama to this relegation scrap?
Andy Rinomhota remains sidelined for the Royals through an ankle injury, leaving a massive presence in the middle of the pitch. The academy graduate has been influential this season and his absence leaves a lack of defensive cover for the back four.
Gomes has managed Rinomhota’s absence by using the more attacking options of John Swift, Ovie Ejaria and Liam Kelly. However, Kelly struggled to make an impact against Blackburn Rovers before coming off injured at Sheffield United.
Joint-top goalscorer Jon Dadi Bodvarsson could return to the lineup after playing 45 minutes last Saturday, following on from his short absence from first-team football. The Icelandic forward has not found the back of the net since September but still shares top spot with Yakou Meite. Nelson Olivera will be hoping to replicate his stunning performance against Blackburn to further secure his role as the main striker.
Sone Aluko is on the verge of departing to Beijing Renhe who are under the control of Reading owners Dai Yongge. Danny Loader could be the ideal replacement for Aluko after his recent exposure to the first team. Sam Baldock and Anssi Jaakkola are still sidelined while Saeid Ezatolahi and Jordan Obita are ruled out for the season.
Top goalscorers: Jon Dadi Bodvarsson and Yakou Meite (7)
Rotherham come into this must-win game with very few injury concerns, and Sean Raggett could make a return to the squad after a recent ankle injury. The Millers are behind the Royals on goal difference after a late draw to Sheffield Wednesday, but Paul Warne will be hoping his side can finally earn their first away win of the season against their relegation rivals.
Rotherham have picked up points against big teams such as Norwich City and Leeds United but have now gone seven matches without a win. The visitors know a win will be crucial to build momentum as they face a tough run with Sheffield United, Norwich and Derby County all to play in March.
One to watch will be Michael Smith who is closing in on top goalscorer Will Vaulks with five strikes after impressive performances against Hull City and Sheffield Wednesday.
Top goalscorer: Will Vaulks (6)
- The Royals have a 16-match unbeaten run at home against Rotherham stretching back to 1977.
- Rotherham have only managed two wins in their last 27 games (D14 L11).
- Reading have the third-worst point return at home in the league (18) behind Ipswich Town (15) and Bolton Wanderers (13).
- The Millers have not won a single away game this season.
This a must-win game for both sides as the season begins to close and games are drying up to save themselves. The Royals have the better form coming into the game but will be extremely disheartened after the United thrashing.
Home advantage will also be key as Reading have picked up the most crucial points at the Mad Stad. Rotherham will be throwing everything at this game so expect fiery tackles and a chaotic scramble for every chance. I can just see the home side edging this if they control the game from the start and bury early chances.
But as we know Reading are very unpredictable when it comes to must win games!