The penultimate game of the season sees Reading travel over 250 miles to the Riverside Stadium to face playoff contenders Middlesbrough.
Middlesbrough will need to win on Saturday to stay in the race for a playoff spot. Derby County leapfrogged them in to sixth place on Monday after a poor showing at the City Ground against Nottingham Forest, losing 3-0.
Reading are all but safe for another year after Rotherham United’s defeat to Birmingham City Monday, coupled with the Royals’ impressive draw against fourth placed West Bromwich Albion.
The Royals are six points above Rotherham United, with a far superior goal difference which could be vital if the Millers were to win their last two games. However, that’s unlikely, as they make the trip to the Hawthorns to face West Brom this weekend.
The last five
Defender Dael Fry will miss the rest of the season after tearing his hamstring in training. Fellow centre back Daniel Ayala will also miss the rest of the campaign after suffering severe ligament damage against Hull City earlier on this month. Captain George Friend is out for the season after a scan showed that he had torn his groin. Lewis Wing is also currently out after having surgery.
Middlesbrough have won three of their past five league games. They kept clean sheets in each of those three victories. However, they conceded a total six goals in their last two defeats. This included a 3-0 away defeat to Nottingham Forest on Easter Monday, as well as a 3-1 defeat to Swansea City at the Liberty Stadium at the start of April. Middlesbrough can only reach as high as sixth this season and could drop to as low as 10th if they lose both of their remaining games.
Nelson Oliveira and Yakou Meite are both unavailable for the last two games after picking up injuries on Monday against West Brom. John Swift is also out for the season after hip surgery, hopefully he’ll come back stronger for pre-season.
Saied Ezatolahi could make the squad for the last two games of the season after recovering from a long-term injury. Some of the youngsters could also play, including Danny Loader, Michael Olise and Tom McInytre after the Royals all but secured their safety.
Reading are unbeaten in their last four league games. Impressive draws against three sides in the top six during these last four matches will give Reading hope that they can get a point or three out of this upcoming game.
A vital win against Brentford has allowed the Royals to give themselves some breathing space going in to the last two fixtures of the season. Only a poor second half showing against Hull City at the KCOM Stadium has prevented the Royals from going unbeaten in their last five.
22/12/2018: Reading 0-1 Middlesbrough
10/2/2018: Middlesbrough 2-1 Reading
28/10/2017: Reading 0-2 Middlesbrough
12/4/2016: Middlesbrough 2-1 Reading
3/10/2015: Reading 2-0 Middlesbrough
Our recent meetings with the club from Teeside have not been overly successful in the past few years.
The last fixture between the two sides ended up being Scott Marshall’s last game as caretaker manager before Jose Gomes took over as the boss. At that point, Reading were only outside of the relegation zone on goal difference, exactly half way through the season with 23 games gone. This just shows how much of an impact Gomes has had on the club.
Reading’s last win at the Riverside Stadium came in 2014 when Simon Cox scored the only goal of the game. Cox also scored in April 2016 in a narrow 2-1 defeat to Boro. Adam Forshaw scored a stoppage time winner for the home side that night.
The only win that the Royals have picked up over Middlesbrough in their last five meetings was in 2015. An opening minute header from Danny Williams helped the Royals to victory that day.
- Despite conceding three at the City Ground on Monday, Boro still currently have the best defence in the league, now joint-top with Sheffield United. Both Boro and Sheffield United have conceded just 39 goals in 44 league games this season.
- However, Middlesbrough have the fourth worst scoring record in the league, scoring just 45 goals this season. This is a scoring average of just over one goal per match in the league this season.
- Reading have lost just two away games this season.
- Reading are currently six points and 13 goals superior to 22nd placed Rotherham United. The Royals are all but safe. Another season in the Championship awaits the Berkshire side.
The change we’ve seen since Nigel Howe and Jose Gomes have come in has been remarkable. Despite our position in the Championship, I now go in to a lot of games feeling confident that we can get something out of it. This was not the case under Paul Clement and the shambolic management of Ron Gourlay.
This has made predicting games from the end of December a difficult task. However, Middlesbrough still have a lot to play for after narrowly slipping out of the relegation zone. Despite their poor goalscoring record in the Championship, I think Boro will win this one convincingly against Reading, who may opt to play some of the youngsters.
Either way, it will hopefully be an enjoyable inflatables day for the travelling away fans. However, I don’t think they will see their team score in this one. I predict a comfortable 2-0 win for the home side.
Middlesbrough 2-0 Reading