Jose Gomes says everyone at Reading is fully aware how massive Saturday’s clash against Rotherham is for the club’s season.
While there would be enough games to repair the damage of a defeat at Madejski Stadium, victory would open up a cushion away from the relegation zone and give a huge confidence boost to a Royals side who lost 4-0 at Sheffield United last weekend.
Gomes’ men sit 21st in the Championship table, only outside of the bottom three on goal difference with Rotherham in 22nd, also on 29 points.
The two go head-to-head on Saturday afternoon in the first of 13 games remaining to try and avoid slipping into League One, and Gomes knows how big the game is.
“This is the most important game of the season, for me,” said the Reading manager.
“I’m trying to give this message to the players regarding the things that they must do, not to give them too much pressure because they have enough pressure from looking at the table.
“Our players are responsible and feel the problems at the club. They know exactly how important this game is.
“We must go to the game and give everything that we have inside us. When you play the game, three results can happen. But when you give the maximum inside you, you reduce the chance to lose points.”
After some defensive mistakes at Bramall Lane last weekend, Gomes could be forgiven for wanting to avoid the high risk strategy of passing the ball out from the back for a more pragmatic approach given the scale of this Saturday’s contest.
But the Portuguese insists sticking with this style will benefit the Royals.
“We will play a very strong, physical team (in Rotherham),” he said.
“They are very strong in the air and direct, but we already know that before we start the game so we must be
prepared for that and without any kind of excuse, put the ball on the ground and play our football.
“This squad was not built to play like Rotherham or like Millwall or Middlesbrough.
“They are different kind of players. The difference is that our players can play football at their feet, a passing game.
“So the point is to give them motivation and courage and push them to show what they can do. I’m sure if we go on controlling the games with the ball, we are very near to winning. Each time that we run away from our process, anything can happen.
“All the games are a test to see if the players are able or not under pressure to ask for the ball or if they hide themselves or pass the ball to another player. But this game will the biggest test.”
Reading are set to be without Andy Rinomhota as he continues to recover from an ankle injury, but fellow midfielders both Liam Kelly and Ovie Ejaria should be in contention having been forced off against Sheffield United.
Tyler Blackett also returns following a hamstring problem but Gomes revealed that loanee Saeid Ezatolahi is unlikely to play against this season due to the hip and quad injury that has kept him out since October. Sam Baldock, Anssi Jaakkola and Jordan Obita remain long-term absentees, while Sone Aluko is close to completing a move away from the club.