The race for the final playoff places is often won by the sides peaking at the right time. Blackpool displaced a faltering Swansea last season, in-form Preston edged out Cardiff in 2009, and Crystal Palace climbed from 9th to 5th in the last five games of the 2007/08 season thanks to four precious wins. Leicester, with two wins in their last 9 fixtures, are showing little sign of the required consistency. But with games still to play, hope remains.
Reading fans can feel much more secure thanks to an 11 match unbeaten run including seven straight victories. Back in February (while City toiled fruitlessly at home to Coventry) the Royals had to settle for a point against Crystal Palace. The result left Reading four points behind the Foxes, six points from the playoffs and 14 points from automatic promotion. Now Brian McDermott’s side are nine points clear of Leicester, hold a six-point cushion on Nottingham Forest in 7th and (if results go their way this weekend) could find themselves in 2nd place. The Royals have picked up 35 points in 2011, only QPR have equalled that. As Leicester continue to drop points, watching Reading of late has felt akin to the emotions defeated game-show contestants must experience when the host reveals what they could have won.
All around Reading the others have stumbled. Of the clubs placed between 6th and 12th in the Championship only Millwall have won more than two of the last six league games. The Foxes can make it three wins in six on Saturday, but to do so they must defeat a Reading side which has only failed to score twice in the Championship this year and has yet to lose a league game when scoring the opening goal. They will also need to concentrate for the whole 90 minutes, Reading have scored 14 goals (20% of their league total) in the last five minutes of matches this season.
It is difficult to be confident of victory on Saturday. Leicester have picked up just three wins in 11 matches against other sides in the top six and have conceded a worrying 21 goals in the process. In addition, Reading are the only Championship side that Sven has yet to face as Leicester manager. The former England boss has beaten eight Championship sides at the first attempt, but lost to nine.
These sides didn’t meet in a league match until 1988 and Reading only recorded their first victory against the Foxes in 2004. The match might lack an edgy rivalry, but it has been deemed important enough for the BBC’s Football League Show to bring their cameras for extended highlights. Leicester last outing on TFLS was the 1-0 defeat at QPR, a defeat sealed in the 88th minute. Reading’s record suggests we could see more late drama on Saturday.