Today will be crucial for both teams as relegation battlers Reading and Wigan Athletic go head-to-head this afternoon.
Nothing but a win will be good enough for the visitors at the Select Car Leasing Stadium - and the hosts could also benefit from getting three points on the board.
It will be a fascinating occasion for the neutrals - but a nail-biter for those who support the two teams. The Royals will be hoping the potential return of Junior Hoilett could make all the difference, but the Latics can’t be written off either after their victory against Millwall last weekend.
Who will come out on top? Will it be a draw? I doubt it - but let’s see.
Here are some facts and thoughts ahead of kick-off.
What? Championship Matchday 45
Who? Wigan Athletic
Where? Select Car Leasing Stadium
When? Saturday 29th April
Opposition Manager? Shaun Maloney
After last weekend, I’ve accepted that we’re pretty much down. However, survival is still mathematically possible and whilst that’s the case, we’ve got to do everything we can to try and get the team over the line. It’s great to see that the attendance will be so high and hopefully that can make a real difference this afternoon.
On off-field matters, I was optimistic about the summer transfer window and I’m even more excited now after the STAR event in midweek. It’s great to hear about Jared Dublin attending Plymouth Argyle’s game against Bristol Rovers - because I still feel it’s important to watch players in action. A mixture of this and using data to draw up a list of targets is the right way forward for us and I can’t help but feel we’re in safe hands under Mark Bowen.
We can’t make a judgement on how successful he’s been yet but if he can back up his words with action, then things look promising.
There were a couple of bits about Dai Yongge that were concerning, including communication and managerial appointments/sackings. And it’s also worrying to hear that Dai Xiu Li isn’t involved anymore. Some people wouldn’t see this as a big deal considering Mr Dai is a billionaire - but it just seems strange that a co-owner would just withdraw their support. I think that’s something that needs to be followed up on.
Whether they stay up or not, Shaun Maloney is probably the right man to guide them forward.
The Latics do have potential - but they need to limit off-field speculation and ensure they pay their wages on time - something they have struggled to do at times this term.
Some of their recent results have been promising and a couple of decent wins between now and the end of this season could help them to survive and/or allow them to gain more momentum going into the 2023/24 campaign.
The Last Meeting
Wigan Athletic 0-1 Reading
Starting XI: Lumley; Guinness-Walker, Sarr, Holmes, Yiadom; Fornah, Casadei, Hendrick, Camara, Azeez, Joao
It has to be the same back four again and although that’s unfortunate for Amadou Mbengue, it’s probably better not to rock the boat with any changes
Mbengue could potentially start in midfield with Tyrese Fornah on the left, but we can probably afford to have a more attacking player like Mamadi Camara out wide if we have three men in central midfield. The latter did play for the U23s recently though, so it would be a surprise to see him start. I’m not sure if I’d start Junior Hoilett straight away considering how long he’s been out injured.
Up top, I’m backing Lucas Joao to be a real game-changer for us. This might be his last home game for us, so he will be desperate to go out on a high if that’s the case.
Score Prediction: Reading 2-1 Wigan Athletic
Here are my predictions for this round of Championship fixtures:
Bristol City 1-2 Burnley
Coventry City 3-1 Birmingham City
Hull City 1-1 Swansea City
Sheffield United 2-1 Preston North End
Stoke City 2-3 Queens Park Rangers
Sunderland 2-0 Watford
West Bromwich Albion 1-1 Norwich City
Cardiff City 0-1 Huddersfield Town
Rotherham United 1-2 Middlesbrough
Blackburn Rovers 2-1 Luton Town