Tuesday 23rd January 2016 Kickoff: 1945hrs Reading v Fulham Football – England – Championship The battle for the playoff spots is starting to really get going in the Championship with as many as 11 teams still very much with a live chance of finishing in one of those four spots. With Newcastle and Brighton seemingly well ahead of the rest in the league this term, it’s unlikely – barring a collapse from one of those – that anyone will break their hold on the automatic promotion spots meaning the only realistic route for two of those 11 teams, Reading and Fulham, is via the playoffs and the three points on offer on Tuesday are crucial in their efforts.
Reading have stuttered of late losing two consecutive games in the Championship for the first time since the middle of August. Defeats at home to QPR and away to Derby look to have put paid to any hopes of automatic promotion they may have had coming into 2017 as it means the Royals are now 11 points behind second place Brighton. There is obviously a long way to go and plenty of points to play for but Jaap Stam’s men simply have to get back to winning ways, not least because the teams behind them are queuing up for a place in the top six. Defeat to Derby on Saturday means they are now just two points ahead of that opponent but Reading do have this game in hand which could give them a bit more breathing space as a win would lift them back into third spot ahead of Huddersfield and Leeds. What Stam’s men cannot afford to do is extend this losing run, particularly as it comes against a team who are not awfully far away from them in the league table.
When previewing the Championship at the start of the season Fulham were one of the teams I felt would struggle to make an impact but they have proved me completely wrong. Slavia Jokanovic took over as head coach in the summer and he’s wasted little time in getting his message and philosophy across to his players. The Cottagers have been one of the most entertaining and visually impressing teams to watch in the division so far and it’s been successful as well. When you consider this club flirted with relegation for long spells last season the fact they are in with a realistic chance of finishing in the top six more than halfway through this campaign then it’s a pretty stunning turnaround in a little over six months. Since the middle of October, Fulham have lost just three of 15 and two of those defeats have come against second place Brighton. One major concern for Jokanovic is the size of his squad which may well be stretched if and when there are a number of injuries and suspensions kick in and he may well look to the last few days of this window as an opportunity to bring another couple of bodies in to help ease that pressure.
Reading v Fulham Betting Tips
This game was originally scheduled for the 30th of December but had to be abandoned in the first half due to heavy fog. As it is, they will try for a second time on Tuesday with both clubs hoping to make up some points on the teams around them. To illustrate just how competitive the battle for third to sixth is likely to be between now and May, a Brighton win at home on the same night then there will be fewer points between sixth and 13th as there will be between second and third.
QPR done a job on Reading a couple of weeks back but I’m not sure a backs to the wall type of performance is in Fulham’s DNA as they look to dominate possession and use their technically gifted footballers to make the difference. That may well suit Reading better and allow their own attackers some more freedom in the final third. They will be out for revenge having been thumped 5-0 at Craven Cottage in early December and whilst a repeat of that score line is pretty unrealistic for either side, I do expect there to be a few goals in this game.
Games involving Reading and Fulham in the Championship this year both average well over 2.5 goals and it’s a trend that I see continuing on Tuesday. Both teams are much better on the front foot and the nature of this game in hand should ensure a fast tempo from the outset.