The term ‘six-pointer’ is bandied about too frequently in football, but with a dozen matches left in the Premier League season, the visit of second-bottom Wigan Athletic to 18th-placed Reading on Saturday looks an absolutely pivotal clash in the battle to avoid the drop.
And on the face of it, in-form Reading look super picks at 31/20 to take their fifth win in six home matches in all competitions against the struggling Latics.
After recording just one win in the 13 matches since the two sides last met, it is perhaps a touch surprising that Wigan are not longer than 7/4, while the draw can be backed at 11/5.
Reading’s impressive form alone should make them strong favourites on paper, but the spirit that Brian McDermott’s charges have continued to show – most recently in Monday’s plucky 2-1 FA Cup defeat by Manchester United at Old Trafford – further supports the case for a home win.
Roberto Martinez’s visitors have made a habit of coming out of the blocks at this time of year to launch a charge to safety, just at the precise moment that they appear to be heading inexorably towards the Championship.
But their recent string of results leaves you fearing if that moment will indeed come this season and they will be staring down the relegation barrel if they are beaten in Berkshire.
Wigan will certainly need to be wary of Reading’s propensity for late goals, even if it was the Latics who netted in injury-time to clinch a dramatic 3-2 win in the reverse fixture at the DW Stadium.
The Royals have scored 14 goals after the 75th minute of their Premier League games this season – an astonishing total which is more than any other team in the division has managed.
Nine goals have been fired by Reading in the second half of their last five league matches, so 21/4 for the hosts to score two second-half goals or 33/2 for three or more in the final 45 minutes are both interesting longer-priced options.
The frequently recurring image of Adam Le Fondre bundling in a late goal as a substitute is the iconic one of Reading’s season so far and the former Rotherham hitman is a decent 19/2 shot to net the last goal of the match on Saturday.
However, the 31/20 quote on Reading is good enough for me and that is where my money will be going on this key Madejski Stadium encounter.