What the rest of the relegation rat pack wouldn’t give for Reading’s current home form. Cast your minds back to just before Christmas when Brian McDermott and his players were being savagely cast as relegation fodder and given little hope of avoiding an immediate return to the Championship. But since Boxing Day the Royal’s have taken an astonishing 14 points from eight games, with 11 of those gained at the Madjeski Stadium, and significantly increasing their survival prospects, especially with fellow strugglers Aston Villa, Southampton and Queens Park Rangers all due to visit. More impressive is their newly discovered resilience nurtured by McDermott and typified by the late comeback from two goals down to snatch a point from Chelsea, courtesy of super sub Adam Le Fondre. And they’ll be hoping form prevails against preservation experts Wigan this weekend.
Its at this stage of the season that the Latics usually mount their great escape act and defy the odds to close the seal on their top-flight status. Astonishingly this is their eighth consecutive season in English football’s top division despite and the odds are likely to be stacked against Roberto Martinez’s side despite their experience in wriggling to safety. With relegation determined by finer margins each season its difficult not to hold a degree of admiration for the job Martinez does each year whilst sticking to his principals of playing neat, attractive football. Three points will send Wigan above Reading and possibly out of the bottom three for the week at least and that will be at the forefront of the Spaniard’s mind going into the game.
Mikele Leigertwood is a doubt for Reading after sustaining an injury in the FA Cup defeat to Manchester United on Monday but Jimmy Kebe could feature.
Wigan are boosted by Antolin Alcaraz’s return from six months out with a groin problem, while on-loan winger Ryo Miyaichi and Emmerson Boyce are back in contention.
What the managers said…
I don’t know what six pointers mean. I can’t be human. I don’t think about other teams. It keeps me focused. There is no such thing as a six pointer in my mind. Must-win games’, I don’t know what that means either. It’s the next game and I’m looking forward to it. I can’t wait to get going. The game at the DW will have nothing to do with Saturday, we’ve moved on, results have been good since and we learnt from it.” Brian McDermott says he doesn’t see the game against Wigan as a ‘six pointer’. (BBC Sport)
“We’re working towards a points tally. I think sometimes you get carried away and you think this is a vital game and if you win you get three points, but that doesn’t guarantee you’ll achieve your aim. In the same manner, if you lose and then go unbeaten until the end of the season, you’ll achieve your aim. It is an important game but what’s more important is that we can be consistent. It is a vital game because it’s one of 12 games left, nothing else.” Roberto Martinez insists Wigan’s trip to Reading won’t define their Premier League fate (Independent)
Pre-Match Statistic: Wigan haven’t beaten Reading at the Madjeski Stadium since October 1999 when both teams were still in the fourth tier of English football.
Prediction: Reading 3-2 Wigan Athletic