READING FC manager Jose Gomes is branding Saturday’s home relegation six-pointer against Rotherham United as their biggest game of the season (3pm ko).

Masked striker Nelson Oliveira got the Madejski Stadium rocking last week with a late winner against Blackburn Rovers to lift Royals out of the bottom three.

But hopes that Gomes’ men had turned the corner in the battle for Championship survival were left in tatters after a brutal 4-0 defeat at title-chasing Sheffield United on Saturday – Reading’s heaviest loss of the campaign.

With only goal difference keeping Royals out of the drop zone, they now face a defining run of league fixtures against three of their chief relegation rivals starting with Rotherham, the team below, this weekend.

Gomes’ men then travel to basement boys Ipswich Town followed by a home clash against 19th-placed Wigan Athletic.

And Reading still have to play many of the Championship’s top teams over the run-in including Leeds United (h), Norwich City (a), Bristol City (a), West Bromwich Albion (h) and Middlesbrough (a).

So the importance of collecting a desperately needed victory against the Millers this weekend is not lost on Portuguese boss Gomes.

He declared: “The next game will be the most important game of the season, that is it.

“Our preparation for the game against Rotherham started in the dressing room after the Sheffield United game.

“Our players have a responsibility, and they feel it. They are ready to take the challenge. We will show that we are ready.

“This week, I will demand from them what they have already shown they can do, nothing more than that.

“They have to show what they can do, and what they have already done in previous games. That is what I demand.”

Reading have won only three Championship matches since mid-October in spells under Paul Clement and new boss Gomes.

Gomes has secured two victories from his 10 games in charge, though suggestions Royals had become harder to beat were blown away by the Blades who took just 38 seconds to score in their handsome win on Saturday.

However, Gomes stressed: “We need to look to the future, recover and prepare for the next match.

“We have to look at our mistakes, the ways that we can improve, the things that we can do to be better in the next game.

“What happened against Blackburn and Sheffield United is in the past, we cannot change it. All we can do is improve in the future.”

Royals drew 1-1 at Rotherham in December when Sam Baldock scored for the visitors.

However, Gomes has a conundrum in midfield where Liam Kelly and Ovie Ejaria have joined Andy Rinomhota and Saeid Ezatolahi on the injury list, with Leandro Bacuna now at Cardiff City after a £4m January move.

Goalkeeper Anssi Jaakkola, left-back Jordan Obita and forward Baldock remain out for the long term.

Meanwhile, Sone Aluko, who was left out of Saturday’s matchday squad, is on the verge of joining Chinese Super League outfit Beijing Renhe, who also belong to Royals owners Dai Yongee and Dai Xiu Li.

Former boss Jaap Stam signed Aluko on a four-year deal from Fulham for a club record £7m in summer 2017. The 30-year-old scored four goals in 59 appearances for Royals and is thought to be set for a loan switch to China with a view to a permanent move.