The day that Reading fans have been counting down to has finally arrived. Following an underwhelming 0-0 draw away at Valley Parade, the FA Cup Quarter Final tie versus the Bantams comes to the Madejski for the replay on Monday night. Being only two days after their league fixtures against Watford and Notts County, the sides have had only a short period to recover.
This being said, the Reading players are in a relatively better position than their opponents. With a place in the FA Cup Semi-Final against Arsenal at stake, Steve Clarke made some drastic changes in their 4-1 away defeat to Watford. Jake Cooper and Hope Akpan were the only ones to keep their places in the starting lineup, meaning fans saw the likes of Zat Knight, Jure Travner, Niall Keown and Jack Stacey all making their first league starts for the club. Though it may have meant sacrificing any chance of getting points against a strong Watford side, it does mean that the strongest Reading starting eleven will be fully rested and ready to go on Monday. Bradford made only six changes for their 1-1 draw against Notts County, as they continue to fight for promotion to the Championship. Amongst those starting the game was striker Jon Stead, who scored once again for the Bantams. By playing some of their big names at the weekend, Reading will be hoping their opposition will not be as fresh as they are.
To say that winning the FA Cup Quarter-Final is a big deal to both clubs would be an understatement. To get to this point in the competition, Bradford have earned their “giant-killer” reputation by beating the likes of Chelsea and Sunderland. If they manage to beat Reading at the Madejski, they will make it into their first FA Cup Semi-Final in 104 years. For The Royals, the wait has not been as long but you have to go back as far as 1927 to find the last time they have made it into the final four. In a season when league success has been severely limited, the FA Cup run is currently giving Reading fans something to get excited about. Although it may only be a game against a League One side, one more victory will take the Royals to Wembley.
With only a few tickets left for the match, despite being an evening fixture, the atmosphere promises to be the best yet at the Madejski. If Reading can start brightly and give the crowd something to cheer, the Royals could win the game comfortably. If they allow Bradford to get time on the ball and dictate the pace of the game, they will have their work cut out for them against the determined underdogs. The first match saw only one shot on target between the two teams, so the strikers will have to up their game on this occasion. With the in-form Reading striker Jamie Mackie surely returning to the starting lineup, Reading will be optimistic of finding the net this time around. Bradford will be equally optimistic with joint FA Cup top goalscorer Stead in the side. The Bantams have lost only three of fifteen FA Cup matches under Phil Parkinson, so it will be as tough for the teams the second time around.
For those not able to make the game, it will also be shown live on the BBC. Though the draw may not have been exciting enough the first time round, all eyes will be on the Madejski come Monday night.