Reading have eight games remaining to secure their place in the second tier of English football for next season. The first of those comes at home to Preston North End, and it’s certainly not going to be easy. Alex Neil’s side have won 4 of their last 6 games, and are undefeated in all six of those fixtures.
Centre midfielder Alan Browne has been Preston’s best player during the campaign and has 15 goal contributions to his name (11 goals, 4 assists). He has played most of his games this season as an attacking midfielder, which seems to be where he is most effective. Eight of his goals and all of his assists have come from this more advanced position and he could be a major threat for the Lilywhites. If not scoring goals, he’ll be looking to set up their other danger man, Callum Robinson. The wide man has only played 19 games for Preston this season, but has 9 goals and 2 assists in those games which shows just how dangerous he can be. However, Robinson has only recently come back from a hamstring injury which could mean he won’t be fully match fit.
If Robinson does start, it will most likely be on the left wing in a 4-2-3-1 formation. Ben Pearson is going to be a very important player for Alex Neil’s side, and the central midfielder will be expected to pull the strings in the middle of the park. However, discipline has been Pearson’s main issue so far this season, as he has a record of 12 yellow cards and 2 reds. If the Royals can get in his head and put him off his game, they could dominate the middle of the park.
This week I am going to go for a 2-1 victory for the Royals. Having Andy Rinomhota back in the squad is a major positive for Reading and I think it will give them the boost that they need to get the win. The academy graduate provides the drive in midfield that the Royals have been missing and his potential to work well with Lewis Baker and John Swift could be a key factor to us getting a result on Saturday. The possible return of Sam Baldock could also provide a natural striking option which we have been lacking in recent weeks.