Reading take on Cardiff City in the second of the play-off semi finals in the Championship.
The Royals were the surprise package for many outside observers, but an eight match winning streak propelled them from mid-table to a solid top six finish.
Cardiff on the other hand were hoping to claim the second automatic promotion place behind QPR, but were edged out by Norwich City following a 3-0 home defeat against lowly Middlesbrough. To add to the disappointment, they were edged out by their Welsh rivals Swansea to third position, ending the season in fourth position.
Reading will be looking to take a lead into the second leg in Wales, and without doubt Shane Long is their biggest threat. The Irish front man as been in the form of his life and will want to add to his 23 goal tally so far this season.
Much will also depend on the ‘Malian magician’ Jimmy Kebe, whose pace and trickery can change a game in an instant.
Cardiff will be counting on front two Craig Bellamy and Jay Bothroyd for their source of goals. Mixed in with the likes of Michael Chopra and Ross McCormack, and City have plenty of attacking threats.
Just five points separates the four Championship sides in this season’s play-offs, so they will all feel that they have an excellent opportunity to make it into the big time. For Cardiff, it’s a question of shrugging of the ‘nearly’ tag, having come up agonisingly short in previous seasons. Reading will be eager for a change from two years ago, where they lost to eventual winners Burnley in the semi finals.
I would imagine Brian McDermott will aim to take at least a two goal lead after the first game at the Madejski, and consequently consolidate the advantage in Wales.
An away goal for Cardiff could change things dramatically though, as you would expect a home win in Wales.
Whichever way the tie goes, it promises to be a fascinating contest, between two openly attacking teams.
I think that Cardiff may just edge it, as the extra bit of quality in their side ought to prove the difference.
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