The hosts are two points better off than their opponents, who are directly below them in the table, but any sort of slip up here will give the chasing pack a chance to close in.
After a run of nine wins from 10 Championship matches, the other game in that sequence finishing in a draw, Barnsley's superb form was ended by Sheffield Wednesday before the international break.
Jordan Rhodes scored twice to inflict a first league defeat on the Tykes since January 19, during which time they have climbed the division into their current position of fifth.
The target for Valerien Ismael's men will be to keep hold of a playoff spot with eight games to go, but they still have to face Norwich City, Middlesbrough and indeed Reading.
This really is a massive game for both sides given the tight proximity between them in the table, plus the fact that Bournemouth, Cardiff City and Boro are all within touching distance.
While Barnsley's form over the past couple of months has been nothing short of exceptional, even accounting for the home loss to lowly Wednesday, Reading's has been rather more inconsistent.
The Royals have won four, drawn three and lost five of their last 12 league matches, allowing the sides behind them to close the gap.
That underwhelming result made it three games without a win for Veljko Paunovic's charges, and now the pressure is really on to get back to winning ways if they are to stay in the top six.
Reading won September's reverse fixture 2-0 at the Madejski Stadium and are seeking a league double against Barnsley for the first time since 2010-11, the season in which they reached the playoff final.
In fact, the Tykes are winless in seven league matches against Reading, drawing three and losing four of those since a 3-1 away win in March 2014.
Carlton Morris has scored five goals from the substitutes' bench in 2021 and is surely pushing for a starting spot on Friday.
That could be at the expense of Dominik Frieser, who was one of three players withdrawn by Ismael at half time in the loss to Wednesday.
Barnsley possible starting lineup:
Collins; Sollbauer, Helik, Andersen; Brittain, Palmer, Mowatt, Styles; Morris, Woodrow; Dike
Reading possible starting lineup:
Cabral; Holmes, Moore, Gibson, Richards; Rinomhota, Laurent; Meite, Olise, Ejaria; Joao
We say: Barnsley 1-2 Reading
Barnsley's momentum has been halted by the two-week break, which came on the back of a home loss to struggling rivals Sheffield Wednesday.
Reading's form has hardly been great of late, but they have won five of their six matches against teams from Yorkshire this term and we are backing them to pull off a big win here.
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