Reading made it into the play-offs mostly thanks to the amazing eight-match winning run and even though their rich vein of form has ended, the Royals enter this match in better spirits than their opponents. Cardiff, on the other hand, missed out on the automatic promotion place and, just like last year, the Bluebirds will have to battle through the play-offs in order to clinch promotion.
Reading slowing down
Reading had a pretty poor start to the season which saw them slip into the danger zone and Brian McDermott’s side needed quite some time to turn their season around. However, it was in February that the Royals finally started playing to their potential, with the aforementioned eight-match winning run helping them make it into the play-offs. Brian McDermott’s men have suffered a small dip in form since, but the victory over Derby meant Reading still enter the play-off battles on a high, so there is no doubt the Royals will now be looking to create an advantage before the return leg. Seeing that they have scored at least two goals in every one of their last seven home games, Reading should have no problems finding the net in this game, but having kept just one clean sheet in last ten home games, the Royals are likely to have problems at the back, especially since Bellamy, Bothroyd and Emmanuel-Thomas will be on the other side.
Mikele Leigertwood will be fit to play after recovering from ankle injury, meaning that Brian McDermott will be able to field his best starting line-up.
Can star-studded Cardiff win the play-offs?
After losing the Championship play-off final to Blackpool last season, Cardiff started the season brightly and they spent the entire season very close to the top of the standings. However, the Bluebirds missed out on the automatic promotion spots, meaning they will now have to beat Reading in order to reach the play-off final for the second year running. There is absolutely no doubt that Dave Jones boasts the strongest squad in the Championship, but the Bluebirds have simply made too many mistakes along the way, although they still have a chance to save this season. Boasting such players like Craig Bellamy, Jay Bothoryd, Chris Burke and Jay Emmanuel-Thomas, Cardiff are one of those teams that don’t really know how to play defensive football, which should guarantee us an exciting affair at Madejski Stadium. Seeing that Dave Jones’ side have won more away games this season than any other Championship outfit, I definitely wouldn’t be surprised if the Bluebirds win this game.
Keeper Tom Heaton is a doubt with a groin injury, but Mark Hudson should be fit to play.
In any other country a play-off semi-final would be a cautious affair, but not in England. With both Reading and Cardiff playing attractive attacking football, we should see a highly entertaining game at Madejski, and that is why my advice is to bet on over 2.5 goals.
Our prediction: Over 2.5 goals
Odds: 1.85 (17/20)