Arsenal's quest for Champions League football continues on Saturday with a must-win match against Reading. The Gunners currently sit four points behind Tottenham for fourth place, but do hold a game in hand.
Anything less than three points from a home match against a club presently in the relegation zone would be a massive disappointment. Arsenal must remain focused on the task at hand to ensure they don't overlook the desperate Royals.
Reading are in a tough spot. They are seven points away from safety with just eight matches left to play. It would take a sudden run of terrific form for the club to avoid getting relegated, and it must start on Saturday in new manager Nigel Adkins' first game in charge since replacing Brian McDermott.
Here's a look at all the important viewing information for the Premier League clash, followed by some players to watch and a prediction.
Where: Emirates Stadium in London, England
When: Saturday, March 30 at 11 a.m. ET
Watch: Sportsnet World (Live stream only in U.S.)
Live Stream: Fox Soccer 2Go
Arsenal Player to Watch: Olivier Giroud
As expected, it took Giroud some time to settle in after arriving from Montpellier. It was a match in late October against these very Royals that got him going, though. He played a vital role in Arsenal's Capital One Cup comeback after coming on as a sub in the second half.
He scored the club's second goal and was a constant threat on the attack in a wild 7-5 victory. He proceeded to score four goals in his next four appearances and has been one of the Gunners' most reliable players ever since.
The biggest key for Arsenal is taking control of the match early. The longer they let Reading remain competitive, the more confidence the underdogs will build. Giroud must be aggressive in the final third right from the opening whistle with hopes of scoring a quick goal to get the Gunners going.
Reading Player to Watch: Adam le Fondre
Le Fondre has played several different roles for Reading throughout the campaign. He's started 10 matches and appeared in 18 more off the bench. However, despite his inconsistent role, he leads the team in scoring with 10 league tallies. No other player has more than five.
The veteran striker is in a minor slump right now, though. He's gone seven straight games without finding the net. Unsurprisingly, the Royals have struggled to create chances without his contributions, scoring more than one goal just once during that span.
Reading will need him to play a far more vital role if they are going to upset the Gunners. Whether it's as a starter or coming on as a sub, Le Fondre must find a way to put pressure on an Arsenal back line that's stepped up after some shaky stretches throughout the season.
Matchup to Watch: Santi Cazorla vs. Mikele Leigertwood
A battle of midfielders with different playing styles. Cazorla is an offensive-minded player who's tied for the club lead in league goals and has bailed the Gunners out on multiple occasions. Leigertwood is a defense-first player who will try to help shut Cazorla down.
If Arsenal gets their way, they will score an early goal and then lean heavily on the Spain international to control possession in the midfield. At this point, they are done searching for style points and just need to ensure they walk away with three points.
Reading will likely use a defensive formation with Leigertwood in the middle. They hope to contain the Gunners early and then rely on counterattacking opportunities once Arsenal become more desperate. Whichever side executes better will get the three points.
The edge goes to Arsenal.
Arsenal 3, Reading 1
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