Brian McDermott braces for fight at the bottom
Reading manager Brian McDermott believes this season's relegation battle could be the closest for years and is warning his side the outcome could be decided by goal difference.
Reading lie second from bottom but will move above Aston Villa, who sit one place and one point above them, if they beat Paul Lambert's side at the Madejski Stadium today.
That would be a timely boost after defeats by Wigan and Everton, but with things so tight at the foot of the table, McDermott is desperate to avoid a repeat of five years ago when Reading were relegated despite finishing level on points with fourth-bottom Fulham.
McDermott was Reading's chief scout then and he said: "I was there the day we went down and I know all about that. It could go down to goal difference.
"We went down by three goals in 2008 so we know it is important to stay in every game even if we are losing.
"It might well be that at the end of the season everyone is looking at this end of the league instead of the other as I think that will be done and dusted by then. It would be nice if we weren't part of that by the final day, but if we are then we are."
Lambert, the Villa manager, believes his charges must show a more ruthless side if they are to survive ahead of pivotal back-to-back games with their relegation rivals.
Villa head into the meeting at Reading on the back of yet another near miss against Manchester City on Monday.
The 1-0 defeat by the champions, which came after a calamitous mistake by Ciaran Clark, left Villa in the bottom three in 18th position.
Lambert, whose battling young side had dropped points at late stages in four of their previous seven league games before the City fixture, said: "The tempo of play, the movement and endeavour, and the energy and sheer will to win, have been very much in evidence for a number of weeks now."
Elsewhere around the bottom of the Premier League today, QPR take on Sunderland and Norwich City face Southampton, while mid-table West Brom and Swansea play each other.