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Football | English Championship

Southampton © Action Images

Royals visit Saints with riches beckoning

Six-pointer, title-decider, top-of-the-table clash. While there are no shortage of cliches to describe Reading's trip to Southampton on Friday night, once the rhetoric is stripped away one fact remains - a winner would have one foot in the money-spinning English Premier League.

With four matches remaining, long-term leaders Southampton and form-side Reading are locked at the top of English soccer's second tier on 82 points each.

Southampton's superior goal difference has them sitting top but all that could change after the clash at St Mary's, as Reading, with eight wins from their last 10 matches, line up the Saints in their sights.

"It is going to be the place to be on Friday," Royals manager Brian McDermott said, while seasoned defender Ian Harte spelled out Reading's goal. "Every game is massive from now on. We're not there until it's done," he told the club website.

"We want to get into the top flight and are in a great position to do that. With the position we are in now, we want to go for the top."

Southampton, whose 2-0 victory at Crystal Palace on Monday was their first win in three games, are focusing on steadying the ship with Premier League riches in sight.

"We have to make sure we keep a calmness about ourselves," manager Nigel Adkins said. "Go about everything in a professional manner and give our fantastic supporters the opportunity to take this fantastic football club back to where it belongs."

Saints' striker Rickie Lambert, who notched his 25th and 26th league goals of the season in the win at Palace, is trying to remain grounded.

The league's leading scorer said: "Obviously it's massively important and it will go a long way towards determining the winner of the league, but it doesn't necessarily mean that the winner of that game will win the league."

Third-placed West Ham, who host Brighton on Saturday, are six points back, looking for Southampton and Reading to slip up.

"Now we have to think of four wins and 12 points and hope that either Southampton or Reading slip up enough for us to get in there," manager Sam Allardyce told the club's website.

Remaining matches:

April 13 SOUTHAMPTON v Reading
April 17 Peterborough Utd v SOUTHAMPTON
April 21 Middlesbrough v SOUTHAMPTON
April 28 SOUTHAMPTON v Coventry City

April 13 Southampton v READING
April 17 READING v Nottingham Forest
April 21 READING v Crystal Palace
April 28 Birmingham City v READING

April 14 WEST HAM v Brighton
April 17 Bristol City v WEST HAM
April 23 Leicester v WEST HAM
April 28 WEST HAM v Hull City


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