Match Preview: Reading v Leeds United - Whites could return to top with defeat of Royals
Tuesday, 12th Mar 2019 16:27 by @LucasMonk99
Leeds United will return to the Championship’s summit tonight with a win away to struggling Reading.
They might have received praise for their expansive, high-octane football throughout this season, but Leeds United showed a different side to themselves in Saturday’s victory over Bristol City.
Patrick Bamford’s goal after nine minutes - his fourth in as many games - proved decisive for the Whites, who ground out a narrow 1-0 victory at Ashton Gate.
It was one of the most streetwise performances from a United team in recent years. Their incessant hassling of the Robins when out of possession largely negated any attacking threat, restricting the home side to a single shot on target.
This was much to the chagrin of a sell-out crowd, but it was precisely the type of performance and victory that a side chasing promotion will gleefully take at this stage of the season. After Norwich’s defeat of Swansea the day before, the chips were down, and Leeds rose up to the challenge.
They face a somewhat different challenge tonight. Despite a renaissance of sorts under the recently appointed Jose Gomes, Reading remain embroiled in a relegation battle. Saturday’s morale-boosting win at home to Wigan, though, will have been a great boost to the Royals, who have lost just once in their last five matches.
It is likely that Gomes will instruct Reading to defend deep inside their own half and in numbers, restricting the space in behind their back four and ceding the ball to their opponents. For Leeds, this may well be a case of remaining patient, passing and probing until a chance arises, and then taking it.
Should Bielsa and his charges secure victory in this game, they will return to the top of the table by virtue of the fact that Norwich do not play their next fixture until tomorrow night.
Reading captain Liam Moore is a major doubt after dislocating his shoulder in Saturday’s win over Wigan.
Nelson Oliveira will be assessed, but Jon Dadi Bodvarsson, Andy Rinomhota and Sam Baldock are still sidelined with injury.
Leeds will have both Patrick Bamford and Kalvin Phillips available after the pair recovered from knocks sustained in the win at Ashton Gate.
Writer’s Prediction: Reading 0-2 Leeds United
Despite the disparity in the two sides’ league positions, this game is significant for both.
A win will see Leeds return to the top of the table ahead of a crucial Yorkshire derby at home to Sheffield United on Saturday, while a victory for Reading will take them six points clear of the relegation zone.
This is really a game in which United should secure all three points on offer, but this will not be an easy task.
Reading possess plenty of Championship experience in Andy Yiadom, Chris Gunter and John Swift.
They also have recourse to the services of Lewis Baker, who spent the first half of the season on loan at Elland Road. Whilst the Chelsea loanee failed to make an impact in West Yorkshire, he is an accomplished set-piece taker and has a good range of passing.
But United should still have enough on paper to secure a first win at the Madejski Stadium since February 2015, when goals from Luke Murphy and Sam Byram saw them claim a 2-0 victory.
The news that Patrick Bamford and Kalvin Phillips are fit to play is an appreciable boost to their chances, and they have enough quality in every third of the pitch to win this match and return to the top of the table.
A decimated Reading team - with no fewer than 10 players missing through injury - have performed admirably in recent weeks, but this should be a bridge too far for them.
Leeds won the reverse fixture in November, and they are well-placed to do the double over their Berkshire counterparts for the first time since the 1927-28 season.
Photo: Action Images
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