Blackburn Rovers vs Reading preview: The Battle for the top-half
Reading v Brentford - Sky Bet Championship
READING, ENGLAND - JUNE 30: Reading coach Mark Bowen shouts instructions during the Sky Bet Championship match between Reading and Brentford at Madejski Stadium on June 30, 2020 in Reading, England. (Photo by Naomi Baker/Getty Images)

What was looking like a play-off battle for Tony Mowbray's side has since faded into mid-table mediocrity since the restart with just two wins in seven games.

Last time out they fell 1-0 to Millwall at The Den, with Mason Bennett doing the damage on the 20 minute mark.

Meanwhile, for the away side it is the tussle for 12th that keeps Mark Bowen and his men battling with two matches to play, currently six points behind the game's host.

On Tuesday they surrendered a 1-0 lead to lose 2-1 to Neil Warnock's Middlesbrough at the Madejski Stadium.


Key Battle

With both sides firmly stranded in mid-table, the key battle won't be between each other but against themselves.

Rovers have won just two in 11 and Reading just four.

Who ever can manage to get themselves 'off of the beach' and go out aiming to win will most probably do just that.

On a separate note, Reading struggled to create clear-cut chances against Boro in midweek, and that was mainly due to Ovie Ejaria missing through injury.

With it being likely that he will miss out again, the key for the visitors is getting John Swift on the ball higher up the pitch for him to be able to be the creative hub rather than the deeper quarterback role he has been playing recently.


Last Meeting

These two last met in September, in which Mowbray's side ran out 2-1 winners.

Goals from Adam Armstrong and Bradley Dack gave the visitors a commanding lead before Swift pulled one back as Jose Gomes' side rallied to produce a tight finish.

For a broader outlook between the two, the sides have met 22 times with Reading winning five but Rovers winning nine.


Team News

Mowbray could recall Ryan Nyambe but will still be without key players Dack, Amari'i Bell and Derrick Williams.

Meanwhile Reading are unlikely to see Pele play for the rest of the season having picked up a knock.

He joins Lucas Joao and Andy Yiadom on the injury list for the rest of the season.

Ejaria is also unlikely to feature at Ewood Park.


Manager's Thoughts

Mowbray may use the final two games to give opportunities to lesser used players, he told the club website:

"We have frustration and disappointment that we’ve not reached the play-offs, and the summer might bring change, so it might be an opportunity to see one or two of the young players, but I won’t be slashing the team.

“We’ll go out there and try and win some matches to keep some confidence moving forward. It’s a competitive league with lots of good teams in it.

“You can’t put three or four young players in and get beat 4-0, otherwise why would I be playing the loan players?

“We want to try and win the games, and if we have important loan players who have important jobs, so the first aim is to pick a team to win the games.”


Former Blackburn assistant manager Bowen insists he is still pushing his players to strive for wins in their final two matches, even though there is very little to play for.

He told the club website:

"We’ll prepare as well as we can for Blackburn, and put demands on the players there to go and get a result – like we’ve done in our last two away games.

“I’ve got to be careful that we don’t just go through the motions in the next two games. That’s not good enough for the fans watching, and not good enough for the club.

“And Blackburn is one of my old clubs – I spent a few happy years there as an assistant manager, so I’d like to go back and get a result.”