READING FC boss Paul admits he would prefer to play teams at the top of the Championship than the bottom ahead of their ‘toughest run yet.’

Clement will soon get what he wishes for when his struggling Royals side return from the international break.

Reading laboured to a 2-2 home draw with basement boys Ipswich Town last time out when a superb Yakou Meite brace salvaged a point to lift them out of the relegation zone.

Clement’s men now go to Wigan Athletic this Saturday searching for only a second away win this season (3pm ko).

Royals then face three of the top-six teams in the following five fixtures with Leeds United (3rd), Sheffield United (4th) and Middlesbrough (2nd) all lying in wait.

Royals’ boss admitted: “I didn’t expect anything different from Ipswich. I saw them play against Preston and Paul Lambert has clearly got them to respond.

“They’ve changed their shape, they have energy, fight and some good players. The fact they’re bottom doesn’t mean anything when that whistle goes.

“I did say I would have preferred to have been playing a Middlesbrough, Leeds or Sheffield United rather than Ipswich and that is still the case.

“Everyone gets affected when you start thinking you have a chance to go eight points above them (Ipswich) and it will be an easy game. As soon as you say that, it’s a disaster.”

Clement’s frustrations on Saturday were summed up by a shocking start against Ipswich who scored twice in the opening 11 minutes.

That came after the Reading manager spent the best part of two weeks trying to plug his porous defence that has shipped 29 goals in 17 games – one of the worst records in the division.

“We’ll be back on the training ground and we have to work on all aspects of the game, particularly the defence,” confessed Clement.

“There has been a lot of emphasis on that for the last two weeks, but in the last two games we’ve conceded two goals in each one, so it’s still not right.

“We have to keep working at it and with the players we’ve got. Repetition is the best way to improve those things.

“Four, five or six sessions may not be enough, but when we do these things 25 or 30 times we will start to see the rewards.

“This next batch of games is perhaps our toughest run yet so we’re going to have to be at our very best.”

Clement’s position has been called into question for several weeks now as his team continued to struggle near the bottom of the table.

Unconfirmed reports suggest Royals’ sporting director Gianluca Nani has been in contact with former Swansea City and Udinese boss Francesco Guidolin over his availability.

It is also rumoured Royals could now turn to Slavisa Jokanovic who was sacked by Fulham yesterday after winning promotion to the Premier League last season.

However, Clement batted away speculation about his future at Madejski Stadium and stressed: “There is no change on that one. I focus on what’s in my control and nothing else.”