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Reading manager Mark Bowen says the FA Cup has provided a healthy distraction as his side prepare for their “biggest game of the season” when they meet Sheffield United in the fifth round.
Reading, 16th in the Championship, host the Premier League side at Madejski Stadium on Tuesday with a quarter-final place at stake.
“It would be absolutely fantastic if we could leave here knowing we were in the FA Cup quarter-final,” said Bowen.
“It would bring a feelgood factor.”
Reading have won just two of their past 11 league matches in the Championship, leaving them eight points above the relegation zone with 10 matches remaining.
Their run in the FA Cup has provided some respite, although they needed replays to beat both Blackpool and Cardiff City en route to the fifth round.
Sheffield United are eighth in the Premier League, pushing for European qualification in their first season back in the top flight.
“They’ll come here and produce everything they do in Premier League games,” said Bowen.
“It will be a really, really tough game for us. The whole country knows what Sheffield United are capable of now.
“Some teams might maybe take their eye off the ball a little bit and think, ‘it’s only Reading’. Sheffield United just don’t do that.
“It’s probably the biggest game of the season for us, because there is a quarter-final place at stake.”
We have to show up mentally and physically – Wilder
Sheffield United overcame Championship opposition in the fourth round with a 2-0 victory at Millwall, which followed a home win against non-league AFC Fylde at Bramall Lane in the third round.
Blades boss Chris Wilder saw his team knocked out of the competition by non-league Barnet last season and says that was a harsh lesson for his squad.
“That was a real low point last year,” said Wilder.
“I’m looking at my players and they are at it. I’d be surprised if the attitude isn’t bang on on Tuesday because we drill it into them all the time.
“If we get beat and Reading have a great one technically or tactically, then that can happen. But mentally and physically we have to show up.”
Reading boss Bowen will assess the fitness of defenders Liam Moore and Matt Miazga.
Royals captain Moore missed the 2-0 weekend win over Barnsley because of illness, while on-loan Chelsea man Miazga played 90 minutes after returning from six weeks out with an ankle injury.
Defender Chris Gunter (groin), forward Lucas Joao (hamstring) and winger Lucas Boye (hernia) are not expected to return, while defender Tom McIntyre (head) is a doubt.
Sheffield United manager Wilder has ruled out making wholesale changes.
The Blades boss could freshen things up in attack, with the likes of David McGoldrick and Lys Mousset pushing for recalls.
Wilder hinted that the likes of defender Panos Retsos and forward Richairo Zivkovic will be involved at the Madejski Stadium.
Sheffield United beat Reading 1-0 in the fifth round of the FA Cup in 1997-98 under Nigel Spackman.
Reading have lost their past four meetings with Sheffield United in all competitions, although their last victory against the Blades was in the FA Cup (4-0 in January 2013).
The Royals have lost six of their past seven FA Cup ties against Premier League opponents, winning the other against West Brom at this stage in 2015-16.
Reading’s Yakou Meite has scored in both of his starts in the FA Cup, with both of those coming in the last round against Cardiff.
Sheffield United have won 13 of their past 14 FA Cup games against sides from a lower division, including two this season. Their only defeat in that time was against Barnet in January 2019.
The Blades are looking to reach the FA Cup quarter-final for the first time since 2013-14, while they last reached the last eight as a top-flight side in 1992-93.