Languishing eight points from safety at the foot of the table with six games remaining. It’s now become a case of ‘when’ not ‘if’ Reading will drop back into the Championship next season. Even new boss Nigel Adkins offered a tenuous acceptance to the fate that so inevitably awaits his side, acknowledging that he is already planning ahead for the next campaign. That being said Adkins hasn’t yet accepted defeat in the battle to beat the drop and is remaining positive in the face of adversity even after seven straight league defeats – the latest coming at home to former club Southampton – and one short of the Premier League record. Anything but a win this weekend would doom the Royals to England’s second tier although it’s difficult to see a victory being anything but a short stay of execution.
Liverpool make the trip South still in with a shout of European qualification after four wins in their last half dozen league games. In fact the Reds are six points better off than they were at this stage last season and have found themselves on an upward trajectory since the New Year. It all goes to illustrate the improvements made under the watchful eye of Brendan Rodgers in his first season as Anfield boss. Extracting the best from top scorer Luis Suarez will stand as one of the Northern Irishman’s many achievements this season although that will ultimately be trumped if he can lead the club back into Europe with a top-six finish. Merseyside rivals Everton are currently blocking them on that path and hold a three-point advantage with a game in hand.
Stewart Downing is available for Liverpool after taking ill during last weeks draw with West Ham in which he was substituted before half time. Raheem Sterling (thigh) has been ruled out meaning Brendan Rodgers has no fresh injury concerns.
Reading will be without Jimmy Kebe (groin) while fellow midfielder Hope Apkan (ankle) is a major doubt.
What the managers said…
“Every team is planning for next season and will have plans for whatever division they’re in. I’ve got an opportunity to assess the playing staff and we’ve got to keep doing that and working hard to build on the success we’ve had before at Reading. We had an idea of what we had before we got here. We’ve got a blank piece of paper and a fresh challenge.” Nigel Adkins admits he already has an eye on next season (Daily Mirror)
“As a club, we want to be in there. We really enjoyed the European football this season (in the Europa League) after it had been missing for a year and I know the supporters love the travel,” Rodgers said. But you could argue that a season free of European football would give us a greater chance of finishing in a much higher position in the league.” Brendan Rodgers believes missing out on Europe might benefit Liverpool (Telegraph Sport)
Pre-Match Statistic: Reading have failed to keep a clean sheet in each of their last nine meetings with Liverpool in all competitions.
Prediction: Reading 1-3 Liverpool