Reading host Wigan Athletic at the Madejski Stadium in arguably the most important fixture of both sides’ season as the race for survival heats up. The Royals have grabbed 11 points from their last five games at home, whereas Wigan have just one win in 13 games since a 3-2 win over Reading at the DW Stadium in November.
Wigan have the experience to combat this relegation battle. This is the Latics’ eighth consecutive season in the top-flight and they continue to defy the odds and beat the drop. Last season, Wigan were one point and one place worse off and still managed to steer themselves to safety. Roberto Martinez’s outfit have conceded 16 goals in their last six games, but will be confident from their comfortable 4-1 victory in the FA Cup against Huddersfield last Sunday that saw them reach their first FA Cup quarter-final in 26 years.
Antolin Alcaraz could return following six months out with a groin injury and on-loan winger Ryo Miyaichi is back in contention after an ankle issue. Emmerson Boyce could also return to solidify the Wigan defence as the season draws to a close. Jordi Gomez scored a hat-trick in the last meeting between these two sides and will be keen to inflict more damage on the Royals, as he looks to help Wigan climb above Reading with a win on Saturday.
Brian McDermott’s side are a force to be reckoned with on their home turf with victories over Sunderland and West Brom, as well as a draw against Chelsea, in their last three home fixtures. With Southampton, Aston Villa and QPR all to visit Berkshire before the end of the season, home form will be pivotal and McDermott will want to extend the unbeaten run at home to six games with win over the Latics. Victory, coupled with defeat for Villa at the Emirates Stadium, will lift Reading out of the relegation zone and renew hope of survival this season.
Mikele Leigertwood is doubtful after sustaining an injury against Manchester United in Monday’s FA Cup defeat at Old Trafford. Winger Jimmy Kebe looks set to feature after overcoming a knock, but striker Jason Roberts and goalkeeper Alex McCarthy are both still on the sidelines.
It is a massive fixture for both sides, who are looking to piece together some form as the season winds to a thrilling climax. Reading’s home form will give them confidence and with super substitute Adam Le Fondre contributing with late strikes, Wigan will need defensive stability. The return of Alcaraz will be a big boost, but with the Latics’ poor clean sheet record, goals are most definitely on the cards.