Reading are still dreaming about a potential play-off place but must beat Swansea on Sunday to keep those hopes alive. Mark O'Haire previews the encounter...
"The guests have fired blanks in five of their last eight Championship dates, with seven of the most recent 10 tussles producing fewer than three goals.
Reading v Swansea
Sunday April 25, 12:00
Reading top-six dreams falter
Reading manager Veljko Paunovic is remaining defiant and not ruling out his side's play-off prospects following a disappointing 0-0 draw at Luton on Wednesday night. The result leaves the Royals six points off sixth-placed Barnsley with just three games to go as the faltering Berkshire outfit have tabled a solitary success in their most recent eight outings.
Paunovic said the stalemate at Luton felt like a loss, but despite the team's poor form, the Serbian still believes a late charge is achievable. He said, "It gets much more difficult but we will not give up and we have to be ready if things go well on the other side. It's definitely worth giving our best to the end and you never know in football. Things change quickly."
Lucas Joao missed the midweek match after he suffered a dislocated shoulder during the draw with Cardiff last week. He was replaced by George Puscas in the XI although the Reading staff are optimistic Joao will be fit enough to feature again soon. Elsewhere, playmaker John Swift could be in-line for a first start since a long injury lay-off.
Swansea fail to fire midweek
Swansea's automatic promotion hopes were effectively ended after their loss to QPR on Tuesday night. The 1-0 defeat leaves the Welsh outfit nine points adrift of second placed Watford with just three matches left to play and head coach Steve Cooper admitted his side lacked the composure required at the Liberty Stadium to chisel out a vital victory.
The Swans started on the front foot and created numerous chances in the first half - with Wayne Routledge going the closest to netting for the hosts when his deflected strike hit the post. However, the Rs also caused problems and saw Ilias Chair twice hit the frame of Freddie Woodman's goal, before securing top honours in the dying embers of the contest.
Cooper said Swansea's ball retention was well off it in the second half and bemoaned his team's lack of inspiration in the final-third. And while mathematically the top two is just about alive, the Swans supremo admits his side's sole focus is now on concluding the campaign strongly. However, top scorer Andre Ayew remains unavailable through injury.
Reading have failed to succeed in any of their past 14 meetings with Swansea across all competitions (W0-D6-L8), a bleak run that extends back to September 2008. The Royals have been turned over by the Welsh outfit in three of their last four Madjeski Stadium match-ups - the most recent two of which have both ended in humbling 4-1 losses.
Reading 2.3611/8 owned a play-off place throughout the campaign before dropping out of the top-six in early April. The Royals - who made a record-breaking start to the season - have struggled to hit the same heights consistently since as Veljko Paunovic's troops have returned W12-D10-L13 in their most recent 35 Championship fixtures.
Swansea 3.505/2 head to Berkshire having been beaten in five of their past eight league games (W2-D1-L5), as many defeats as the Swans had suffered in their previous 30 Championship matches combined. However, Steve Cooper's visitors have proven slightly better travellers of late, posting W4-D1-L3 in away days dating back to the start of February.
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 1.654/6 wagers in 11 of their past 14 encounters.
It's a similar story when Swansea have been involved. The guests have fired blanks in five of their last eight Championship dates, with seven of the most recent 10 tussles producing fewer than three goals. Away from the Liberty Stadium, 15 of the 21 Swans' fixtures have also featured Under 2.5 Goals winners.
With neither team particularly impressing in the final-third, I'm happy to take the 1.8910/11 available on 'No' in the Both Teams To Score market, a profitable formula in seven of Swansea's eight league fixtures over the past month.
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