Preview: Reading vs. Burnley

Sports Mole looks ahead to Saturday's Championship final-day meeting between playoff-chasing Reading and promoted Burnley at the Madejski Stadium.

Reading go into Saturday's Championship meeting with Burnley knowing that a win would be enough to secure the final playoff place on the last day of the season.

The Royals currently occupy the coveted sixth place in the Championship table, with one point separating them from seventh-placed Brighton & Hove Albion.

The Seagulls take on Nottingham Forest on Saturday, but Reading would make the result at the City Ground irrelevant if they can claim all three points against the already-promoted Clarets.

However, due to goal difference being level between Reading and Brighton, the Royals also know that if they fail to at least match the Seagulls' result then they would miss out on the playoffs in agonising fashion.

There is no doubting the importance of this weekend's match, then, and Nigel Adkins will be pleased that his side seem to have found a bit of form at the perfect time for a final push.

Following a spell of just one win in six that fortuitously fell at the same time as those around them were also slipping up, Reading have recorded back-to-back victories for the first time since January/February to put themselves in the driving seat.

They have, however, only won once in their last eight home matches, and it will be a concern that they have fared better on the road than they have at the Madejski this season. That factor may be valuable in the playoffs themselves, but it has certainly hampered their attempts to get there.

Adkins is still without Jem Karacan and Danny Guthrie due to injury, but Danny Williams could return to the side having missed last weekend's win over Doncaster Rovers.

Burnley, meanwhile, could be forgiven for having one eye already on next season having secured a place in the top flight over the Easter period.

They can no longer finish any higher or lower than second place, but manager Sean Dyche will still be keen to end what has been a hugely successful campaign with a fourth consecutive victory.

The Clarets have kept clean sheets in their last three outings and only conceded once in their last five to help towards the best defensive record in the league this season.

Ominously for a Reading side that needs a win to guarantee playoff football, Burnley have also been the toughest team to beat in the current campaign, losing just five times.

The Lancashire outfit have not been beaten away from home in the league since Boxing Day, a fine run of 11 matches that includes six victories. Only leaders Leicester City have amassed more points on the road this season, with Burnley picking up 41 of their 92 points on their travels.

Dyche may opt to field some fringe players throughout the match ahead of what is sure to be a busy summer, but Sam Vokes is definitely out with knee ligament damage.

Recent form

Reading: WLDLWW

Burnley: DWLWWW

Possible starting lineups

Reading: McCarthy; Gunter, Pearce, Morrison, Obita; Akpan, McAnuff, Williams; Le Fondre, McCleary; Pogrebnyak

Burnley: Heaton; Trippier, Shackell, Duff, Mee; Jones, Arfield; Kightly, Ings, Marney; Barnes

Sports Mole says: 1-1

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Nigel Adkins, manager of Reading, shouts instructions from the touchline on April 28, 2013
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Preview: Doncaster vs. Reading

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