Southampton and Reading set for Premier League showdown

St Mary's Stadium
ST MARY'S STADIUM

They say that Friday the 13th is meant to be unlucky for some. Tonight Southampton and Reading will be hoping it does not prove to be them.

Leaders Southampton take on second-placed Reading in a game that could not only effectively seal promotion to the Premier League but could also determine the destination of the Championship title.

But defeat could lead to an end-of-season scrap for that final automatic-promotion place with third-placed West Ham waiting in the wings to take advantage of any slip up.

There will be three games left following Friday's clash at St Mary's. Victory for either side would open up a three-point gap and would also open up a nine-point advantage over the Hammers in third-place.

"It's the biggest game of the season for both clubs," former Reading captain Adrian Williams told BBC Sport.

"Whoever wins the game will be playing Premier League football next season. The carrot is that big."

Southampton's season has been built on the goals of striker Rickie Lambert - who has 26 in the league so far, and 30 in total.

His goals have kept Saints in the top two all season, and they remain the side to catch.

Reading's start to the season was less spectacular but 40 points out of a possible 45 in their last 15 games have blasted manager Brian McDermott's men up to second, and they are now the form team.

Williams is full of praise for the job McDermott has done this season calling his management of the team "brilliant" after he picked the club back up off the floor following last season's play-off final heartbreak.

He believes several factors helped turn things around, notably the arrival of defender Kaspars Gorkss as well as the signing of a new contract by fans favourite winger Jimmy Kebe and manager McDermott.

Williams believes Kebe's form in particular has epitomised everything that is good about this current Reading side.

"Jimmy Kebe is popular with the fans because he has ability and quality and can win a game of football on his own," added Williams - who played more than 300 times for the Royals.

"There is nothing better than watching Jimmy Kebe in full flow. His pace is his biggest asset and when he is on his game he can terrorise defenders.

"This season we are seeing Jimmy Kebe do things he probably didn't know he could do himself. He has been tackling back, heading clearances away and Brian McDermott has done a brilliant job managing him. He is now the complete player."

Unlike Southampton, Reading do not have a marksman as prolific as Lambert but have instead shared the load around the team.

It is something Williams, who is regarded as one of the club's greatest ever defenders, believes has been crucial to their success.

"The highest goal scorer at Reading is on nine," he added.

"But that is the most pleasing thing about this Reading team, the goals have been shared around.

"Reading aren't a one-trick pony. There are numerous players who can pop up and score the winner. There are a lot of goals in the Reading squad and I think the style of play is their best attribute.

"Every player knows his job, they are consistent and have the best keeper outside of the Premier League. They have a rock solid, vastly experienced defence and they have a really good mixture. They are a team of leaders."

Williams is confident Reading can defeat Southampton on Friday the 13th, only time will tell who it proves to be unlucky for.

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