Wigan Athletic-Reading Preview
By RYAN WILLOX
STATS European Football Writer
(AP) -- LONDON (SE) - Reading will attempt to translate their impressive recent form into a five-point lead over relegation rivals Wigan Athletic when they meet at the Madejski Stadium on Saturday in what promises to be a defining match in each team's campaign.
The 13 points the Royals have gathered since Boxing Day leaves them behind only Manchester United, Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool in the Premier League form table.
The Berkshire outfit are unbeaten in their last five home league matches, winning three of them, and only United, Liverpool and Spurs boast a better record in that span.
Wigan (5-6-15) boss Roberto Martinez, whose side currently sit two points behind Reading (5-8-13) in 19th place, has his team on notice to expect a tough battle.
"It's clear that Reading is a team that never gives up, and will play until the very last second for one another," Martinez told the Wigan club website. "They also have players coming off the bench who allow the team to play in different ways, and that's something we need to be aware of this weekend.
"To claim eleven points from the last ten minutes of games is an incredible return, so we'll work hard to ensure we're prepared for that. I would say they're are in the best moment of their season right now, producing strong performances over the last two months and recording important results as well."
Martinez's side are without a win in their last six league matches and have won just once in their last 13 since a 3-2 triumph over Saturday's opponents in late November. The Latics record at Reading doesn't offer much comfort either as they haven't won in their last seven trips there, losing five and drawing twice since a 2-0 win in the third tier in October 1999.
That said, Martinez can draw upon a statistical anomaly to provide encouragement for the weekend clash as the Latics are the only Premier League side to have gathered more points away (11) than they have taken at home this season (10).
Royals defender Stephen Kelly will have key role to play in keeping Wigan's attack at bay on what is sure to be a nervous afternoon.
"Obviously it's a very important game for us," Kelly told the Reading club website. "We've built up a lot of confidence over the past couple of months. Especially with the run of from we've been in, we've got to make the most of our home games and this is a very important match of us.
"Wigan are a good side - they attack very well. They play with three at the back which is a bit different to most Premier League teams so there are areas that we can hopefully expose."
Neither Jason Roberts nor Alex McCarthy are available for Reading who also have doubts over Mikele Leigertwood and Jimmy Kebe.
For Wigan Albert Crusat, Ben Watson and Ryo Miyaichi are still out but Emmerson Boyce and Antolin Alcaraz may be fit in time.
Jordi Gomez completed his hat-trick in the second minute of stoppage time to secure Wigan a 3-2 victory against Reading at the DW Stadium in side's last meeting. The Royals had led through Sean Morrison and it appeared the points would be shared when goalkeeper Ali Al Habsi fumbled into his own net but Jordi Gomez popped up with the late winner.
Reading have attempted the fewest shots (235) and hit the least shots on target (85) in the Premier League this season. The Royals have also faced the most shots (436) and most shots on target (150) in the Premier League this season.
Updated February 21, 2013