Reading v Cardiff
Friday April 16, 18:00
Reading drop out of the top-six
Reading surrendered their position in the Championship's play-off places last weekend as the Royals fell to a 2-0 loss to high-flying Watford. A quick-fire brace from Ismaila Sarr proved the difference at Vicarage Road although Veljko Paunovic's posse had a number of good opportunities to get back into the game but were left to rue some poor finishing.
George Puscas hit the post from inside the six-yard box and Yakou Meite sliced an effort into the side-netting as Reading pressed for a way back into the game before the break but the defeat means the Berkshire boys have registered a solitary success in six league outings (W1-D3-L2) since the start of March to fall two points adrift of the top-six.
Speaking post-match, Paunovic said: "The tough part of the game is the result. We played great football against one of the best teams in the league but the outcome was not what we wanted." Meanwhile, the Serbian supremo has dropped a hint that playmaker John Swift could make his long-awaited return to the side here on Friday evening against Cardiff.
Cardiff give up on play-off dream
Cardiff boss Mick McCarthy revealed his Bluebirds players were feeling "sick" after conceding an injury-time equaliser to Blackburn last weekend, which all but ended the capital club's hunt for the last play-off spot. The manager admitted he had few grumbles about the result, given Rovers hit the woodwork three times before the late leveller.
Will Vaulks' powerful low strike put the home side ahead but Rovers levelled before half-time with an effort Alex Smithies should have saved. Blackburn then rattled the post on three occasions in the second half before substitute Joe Ralls restored Cardiff's lead. However, the visitors earned a fair share of the spoils deep into stoppage-time.
Speaking post-match, McCarthy said: "We've given away two goals at the end of each half, which is disappointing. I can't sit here and say they didn't deserve something from it, the second half certainly they played well. It feels like a defeat, conceding again in the 90th minute." The former Ireland coach has already turned his attentions to next term.
Reading come into this clash unbeaten in their most recent eight league encounters with Cardiff (W4-D4-L0) since November 2015. The Royals have also avoided defeat at the Madjeski Stadium in each of their past five fixtures with the Bluebirds, suffering a solitary home reverse against the Welsh outfit in eight (W2-D5-L1) over the past decade.
Reading 2.285/4 hadn't strayed outside of the top-six all season before last weekend. The Royals - who made a record-breaking start to the campaign - have struggled to hit the same heights consistently since November. Indeed, Veljko Paunovic's troops have returned W9-D6-L6 in their past 21 outings and posted W5-D6-L8 against fellow top-half teams this term.
Cardiff 3.505/2 surged into play-off contention immediately after Mick McCarthy's arrival. But the Bluebirds bid for a top-six finish has extinguished following a number of key injuries and costly late goals conceded. The capital club boast just a W2-D4-L3 record over their past nine, including a 5-0 thrashing at relegation-threatened Sheffield Wednesday on the road.
Reading were one of the division's great entertainers throughout the majority of the campaign, although a combination of profligate finishing and improved defensive organisation has meant goals haven't flowed quite so freely late. The Royals have delivered profitable Under 2.5 Goals 1.608/13 wagers in nine of their past 12 encounters.
After an early flourish of goal-filled games under Mick McCarthy's tutorship, Cardiff's contests started to trend towards lower-scoring match-ups. Indeed, four of the Bluebirds most recent seven fixtures have featured a maximum of one goal, and six of the last nine outings in the Championship have also paid out for Under 2.5 Goals supporters.
Nevertheless, with Cardiff now publicly calling off their play-off bid, the freedom that follows could lead us towards a more enjoyable meeting than the market currently anticipates with Both Teams To Score appearing overpriced at 1.9110/11. Reading have scored in 17 of 20 home games this season with Cardiff notching in 15 of their 20 away days.