MX23RW : Wednesday, January 16 04:25:15
Apr 22, 2015 at 8pm UK at ​Madejski Stadium
Reading
0-1
BirminghamBirmingham City
FT(HT: 0-0)
Donaldson (83')

Preview: Reading vs. Birmingham City

Sports Mole gives you the lowdown on Wednesday night's sole Championship game as beaten FA Cup semi-finalists Reading host Birmingham City.

Reading's attention turns back to the Championship on Wednesday night as they host Birmingham City after being denied a first FA Cup final appearance by Arsenal.

The Royals might have had a dream run in the Cup, but it hasn't gone to plan in the league as they are not yet safe from relegation going into the final two weeks of the season.



Reading

Adam Federici of Reading stretches for the ball as he fails to stop a shot by Alexis Sanchez of Arsenal for their second goal during the FA Cup Semi Final between Arsenal and Reading at Wembley Stadium on April 18, 2015© Getty Images

Reading's FA Cup exploits mean that they have only played 42 games this season, with the majority of the league having played two matches more and only two games from the season's end.

Steve Clarke's side are very unlikely to be dragged into the mire and they know that victory over the Blues on Wednesday will move them up to 18th and 10 clear of 22nd-placed Millwall, ensuring second-tier football for another season.

At Wembley on Saturday, the Royals went toe-to-toe with the holders, but lost out in extra time as Adam Federici mishandled Alexis Sanchez's shot over the line to send the Gunners through.

It meant that Reading couldn't go one better than their only other FA Cup last-four appearance in 1927.

No win also makes it six games without a victory in all competitions, while in the league they have won just two of their last 12 in what has been a wholly underwhelming season bar the FA Cup run for a team that was in the playoffs last term.

Clarke will be desperate for a win to avoid any relegation worry, but the Royals' record immediately after an FA Cup game this season has not been good with just one win out of five. They have also failed to score in five of their last seven games at home.

Recent Championship form: LLDDDL
Recent form (all competitions): LDDDLL



Birmingham

Gary Rowett manager of Birmingham City looks on during the Sky Bet Championship match between Ipswich Town and Birmingham City at Portman Road on February 24, 2015© Getty Images

Like Reading, Birmingham have a different manager to the one that they started the season with. Gary Rowett's impact has been better than that of Clarke's and he is targeting a top-half finish with the Blues.

After just two defeats and an impressive eight wins in his first 12 games in charge, Rowett's side have shrunk back since mid-January with just four wins in 19 games.

Still, they are completely safe and if they can finish the season strongly a top-12 finish is a real possibility.

A haul of at least seven points from their remaining three games will probably be needed if they are to stand any chance of finishing in the top half, but two of their last three games are away from home, where they haven't won in the league since the turn of the year, losing five of their last six on the road.

A leaky defence has been their main issue of late, with no clean sheet in eight games and 14 goals conceded in that time.

On Saturday they only let one in, but that was only goal of the game as new league leaders Watford claimed the points at Vicarage Road. To be fair to Birmingham, little could be done about Craig Cathcart's impressive volley.

One of the most positive aspects of the Blues' season has been the rise to prominence of Demarai Gray, who scored a hat-trick when Birmingham last faced Reading. Keeping hold of the teenager will be a tough ask this summer, with Arsenal the latest club to be linked to the winger.

Recent form: LWLWDL



Team News

Reading's foward Jamaican forward Garath McCleary celebrates after scoring during the FA Cup semi-final between Arsenal and Reading at Wembley stadium in London on April 18, 2015© Getty Images

Clarke didn't make a substitution until the 90-minute mark against Arsenal, so could rotate and freshen up his lineup for the visit of Birmingham.

The likes of Jem Karacan, Oliver Norwood and Simon Cox could all come in, while on-loan Chelsea man Nathan Ake is available again after being cup-tied against the Gunners.

The Blues will be able to welcome back Watford loanee Diego Fabbrini, who was ineligible to face his parent club at Vicarage Road two days ago.

Elsewhere, David Davis, Wes Thomas and Lee Novak will hope that they impressed enough from the substitutes' bench against Watford to earn starts at the Madejski Stadium.

Reading possible starting lineup:
Federici; Gunter, Pearce, Hector, Obita, Williams, Ake, Karacan; McCleary, Pogrebnyak, Cox

Birmingham possible starting lineup:
Randolph; Caddis, Morrison, Kiernan, Grounds; Gleeson, Tesche; Cotterill, Fabbrini, Gray; Donaldson



Head To Head

Reading have won two of the last three meetings between the two, but were well and truly hammered 6-1 in the December reverse.

The Royals' record at home to Birmingham is decent, though, with four out of five victories when hosting the Blues of late.

The last goalless draw between the two sides was 16 meetings ago in 1996 when they were also both in the second tier.


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We say: Reading 2-1 Birmingham

Reading might be a little more jaded following the demands of Saturday's game at Wembley, but they have more to play for and will want to put an end to their nasty winless streak. There should be goals, and we expect Reading to just edge it given Birmingham's woeful away form in 2015.


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Who will win Wednesday's game, Reading or Birmingham?

Reading
Draw
Birmingham
Reading
47.9%
Draw
17.6%
Birmingham
34.5%
Matthew Connolly of Watford celebrates scoring their second goal with Odion Ighalo of Watford (R) during the Sky Bet Championship match between Nottingham Forest and Watford at City Ground on April 15, 2015
Read Next:
Preview: Watford vs. Birmingham City
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Tables
TeamPWDLFAGDPTS
1Leeds UnitedLeeds27166546281854
2Sheffield UnitedSheff Utd27155746281850
3Norwich CityNorwich27148549351450
4West Bromwich AlbionWest Brom27138655352047
5Middlesbrough271210530191146
6Derby CountyDerby2712783834443
7Bristol City2711883429541
8Birmingham CityBirmingham2791263930939
9Nottingham ForestNott'm Forest2791263931839
10Hull City27116103933639
11Queens Park RangersQPR27116103335-239
12Aston Villa2791174943638
13Swansea CitySwansea27107103632437
14Blackburn RoversBlackburn2791083541-637
15Stoke CityStoke2781183134-335
16Sheffield WednesdaySheff Weds2788113245-1332
17Brentford27710103937231
18Preston North EndPreston2779113944-530
19Wigan AthleticWigan2785142840-1229
20Millwall2777133343-1028
21Rotherham UnitedRotherham27510122542-1725
22Reading2758143041-1123
23Bolton WanderersBolton2757151840-2222
24Ipswich TownIpswich2739152246-2418

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