Southampton v Reading, Friday 19:45
As far as any neutral will be concerned, Southampton and Reading are both in ideal form to produce a thriller when the two teams – currently 1st and 2nd in the Championship, respectively – clash on Friday as Paddy Power offer value looking odds on Brian McDermott’s side.
The fixture promises to start the weekend’s football off with a bang and with both sides level on points at the moment, the winner will go into next week at the summit of the nPower Championship.
Although they might be lower in terms of league placement, Reading travel to St. Marys as the in-form team of England’s second tier, winning five of their last six matches, losing just one.
The Saints are a close second with four wins, a draw and a loss over the same time period but will be hoping to stake their claim for Championship dominance on Friday.
Nigel Adkins’ side have been impressive all season but have performed best in front of their own fans, scoring an average of 2.10 goals per game when playing with home advantage.
Conceding a lowly 0.71 goals per game on average, Southampton’s home defence hasn’t looked too shabby either and is currently one of the best in the league, second only to Birmingham City.
Reading may not have gotten off to best start this campaign but 2012 has been good to the Berkshire outfit.
Brian McDermott’s men have risen from the ashes over the past four months, going from a dismal spot in the bottom half of the table and firing themselves into the automatic qualification spots.
However, the Royals are now looking to go one better and win the whole thing and victory on Friday would certainly make that final push all the easier.
The visitors go into the game having won their last four matches on the trot and a fifth against the league leaders would put the side in good stead for the remainder of the season.
Reading’s attack when playing away from home has looked good since their New Year surge but it’s their away defence that has been most impressive, managing to keep a clean sheet in 38% of their matches in unfamiliar territory.
Early weekend affairs can often prove to be tense and turgid matches for all concerned but Friday’s meeting between the Championship’s top two promises to be a cracker and could ultimately decided who claims the title come season’s end.