READING will have to produce an FA Cup upset if they are to progress to the quarter-finals when they host Premier League Sheffield United on Tuesday evening.
“It is a distraction, but it’s a nice distraction,” said Reading manager Mark Bowen ahead of the fifth-round clash at the Madejski Stadium.
“The club has a bit of history with a semi-final. It’s nice for the fans and the players.
“It will be a really hard game, the whole country knows what Sheffield United are like.”
The Royals eased their relegation fears with a vital win against Barnsley on Saturday ahead of the cup tie, while their opponents have enjoyed an extraordinary season in the top flight having won promotion from the Championship last season.
The Blades have been this year’s Premier League surprise package and are in the hunt to qualify for a European place next season. The Blades are currently 8th in the table, but remarkably only five points off the top four with a game in hand to play on all of the teams above them.
Bowen has vowed to pick the strongest starting lineup available for seleciton, while he expects Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder to do the same with a place in the quarter-finals up for grabs.
“I think they will come strong with the stage in the competition that we are at,” continued Bowen.
“It’s a good experience for us and we’ll have a good crowd here and a lot of vocal support.
“I’ll pick the strongest side in my mind to win the game. It’s exciting for me and the club to think if we can get through the tie, which is what we will certainly be aiming for.”
The winners of the tie will have to be decided on the night, with the drama of extra-time and penalties a possibility if the match ends in a draw.
The Royals will be hoping that their captain Liam Moore will be available for selection having missed the Championship triumph over Barnsley with illness, but will still be without Lucas Joao.
Reading have lost their past four meetings against Sheffield United, where they were beaten 2-0 at the Madejski Stadium and 4-0 at Bramall Lane last season in the Championship. The Royals however, did progress when the teams last met in the FA Cup with a 4-0 victory in 2013.
Predicted Reading line-up: Rafael, Yiadom, Morrison, Miazga, Obita, Rinomhota, Swift, Ejaria, Olise, Meite, Puscas.