READING FC boss Paul Clement is expecting their ‘hardest game of the season’ tomorrow when Ipswich Town visit Madejski Stadium (3pm ko).

The clash between two of the bottom three teams in the Championship is being labelled an early relegation six-pointer.

After 16 games, Royals sit 22nd in the table on 15 points with four wins with Ipswich bottom on 10 points with only one victory.

However, Clement expects the Tractor Boys to be much tougher opponents than their league position suggests under new manager Paul Lambert, whose first game in charge since replacing Paul Hurst ended in a 1-1 home draw with Preston last weekend.

“This is a very complicated game,” said Clement, whose side made it back-to-back home wins by beating Bristol City last Saturday. “If we starting thinking it’s going to be easy we’re wrong.

“Ipswich are a team that’s struggled with only one win this season, but they’re fighting for their lives, like we are, and that makes it a very hard game.

“They have a new manager who has had another week to work with the team after a draw in his first game. They’ll be searching for their first win under him and I think it will be very difficult.

"I’m expecting our hardest game of the season.”

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Tomorrow’s clash offers Reading the chance to claim successive league victories for the first time since December.

And under-pressure Clement feels it is too early to call it a ‘relegation battle.’

“It’s not so much about Ipswich’s situation but our own,” he argued. “We have the opportunity for back-to-back wins which hasn’t happened for a long, long time.

“I would think if we win we’ll be out of the relegation zone which we’ve been in for a few weeks now.

“I don’t think it’s so important that the opposition is Ipswich or Sheffield United or Leeds, it’s about us and doing the best we can at home to get the result.”

Reading Chronicle:

Liam Kelly celebrates after scoroing a stunning goal in Reading's 3-2 win against Bristol City last weekend. Picture: Jasonpix.

Clement, though, has nasty memories of his last encounter with Ipswich Town towards the end of last season.

The teams met at the Madejski Stadium in Reading’s final home game when a draw would have been enough to keep them up.

But a shocking, late collapse saw the visitors rattle in four goals in the last 19 minutes to win 4-0 and send Royals survival battle into the final day where a 0-0 draw at Cardiff City eventually proved enough.

“I’m still having nightmares about Ipswich last season,” admitted Clement. “It was 0-0 going into the last 20 minutes and we were going to be safe, then ended 4-0, it was incredible.

“That was when they had a caretaker manager. Now they have an experienced manager. I watched their game against Preston and you could see how animated he was on the side and how much he was driving them on.

“We have to expect a really fired-up Ipswich on Saturday.”

Clement is short of options up front with top scorer Jon Dadi Bodvarsson ruled out for six week and Yakou Meite facing a late fitness test after rolling his ankle against Bristol City.

That could see teenage hot-shot Danny Loader involved having trained with the first-team all week.

Goalkeeper Anssi Jaakkola could also return to the squad after recovering from a knock.

Adrian Popa and Pelle Clement have returned to training, but Vito Mannone, Saeid Ezatolahi, Dave Edwards, Omar Richard and Jordan Obita are all ruled out.

Ipswich manager Lambert has no fresh injury concerns since his first match in charge. Midfielder Jon Nolan is sidelined after a knock in training and Grant Ward looks set to miss out again.