Reading will take a trip to the Macron Stadium to face basement side Bolton Wanderers this afternoon for a match that means little, with neither relegation nor the play-offs looking likely.
It’s been an underwhelming season for the Royals, with an excellent start to the season having fizzled out in dramatic fashion, leaving Brian McDermott’s side sitting in 17th place in the Championship.
A win in this game will essentially secure Reading’s status as a Championship side next season, whilst also all but condemning Bolton to the drop.
With just eight games remaining, the gap between the struggling Trotters and 21st place Fulham is 12 points and, after a 6-0 trouncing at the hands of Bristol City in their last match, all hopes of an unlikely late revival have been severely dashed.
If they lose this game, they can kiss goodbye to any faint chances of survival.
FootballLeagueWorld writer Harry Smith identifies THREE things to look out for in this afternoon’s encounter…
1) Rob Holding
The young defender has been on the radar at Reading for a few months, and if Bolton do drop into League One come May, he will most likely look to jump ship.
If talks between the clubs are as serious as is believed, then it will be worth watching his contribution to the game, not just to see if he is capable of putting in 100% even when there is seemingly no hope, but also to see what Reading fans could be getting next campaign should he make the move.
2) Brian McDermott’s team selection
Spanish midfielder Alex Fernandez said in the press earlier this week that McDermott was preferring to play players who would be at the club next season, so it will be interesting to see who he choses to play in his three midfield slots in his favoured 4-1-4-1 formation.
With Michael Hector set to return to Chelsea at the end of the season, and Lucas Piazon and Fernandez looking out of the question, will we see Oliver Norwood make a return to the starting line-up, or maybe young George Evans or Aaron Kuhl?
Only time will tell.
3) Zach Clough
The talented young striker will almost certainly not be playing his football at the Macron next season.
Thus, from now until the end of the season, he will be playing for his future, trying to earn a move to another Championship outlet, or maybe even a move to a lower end Premier League side.
On his day, he can tear apart any Championship defence. The question is, will he turn up now Bolton’s season is essentially over?
Bolton and Reading fans… what do you think the score will be? Will anything other than victory all but relegate Bolton? Do Reading still need a few more wins to guarantee survival? Let us know your thoughts and opinions in the comments below!