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Royals look for another FA Cup giant-killing against Villans...

Kick-Off: Sunday, 7 March, 13:15 GMT
Madejski Stadium, Reading

Aston Villa travel to the Madejski Stadium looking to bounce back from their Carling Cup final disappointment and book another Wembley return when they face Reading in the FA Cup quarter-finals.

Reading are the last remaining Football League side still in the competition and their excellent cup run has given their fans something to shout about in an otherwise disappointing season.

They currently sit just four points above the Championship's relegation zone and avoiding the drop will be manager Brian McDermott's number one priority this season.

Despite their below-par season in the league, the Royals are in fine form in the cup and have overcome the likes of Burnley, West Bromwich Albion and Liverpool with some magnificent performances.

Their cup run has come as a welcome distraction and they will be looking to continue that with another Premier League scalp in their first quarter-finals appearance since 1927.

This season's FA Cup giant-killers go into the game full of confidence after an incredible 5-0 hammering of Sheffield Wednesday last Saturday, but Villa will prove a much tougher test.

Reading's home form has been poor all season however, winning only four of their fifteen league games at the Madejski Stadium and it could prove too difficult a task to stop the attacking threat posed by the West Midlands club.

Villa are back in cup action after their Carling Cup final heartbreak against Manchester United last Sunday. Martin O'Neill's side will be disappointed with their performance but may still be questioning referee Phil Dowd’s decision not to dismiss United centre-back Nemanja Vidic in the opening minutes of the game.

Despite feeling a sense of injustice, Villa couldn't do enough to beat the Premier League Champions and will be looking to bounce back and return to Wembley in the FA Cup.

The Villans have not been in the best of form of late, squeezing through in the last round after needing two games to get the better of troubled Crystal Palace, eventually beating them 3-1 at Villa Park.

This time of year has proved to be difficult for Villa in recent seasons and incredibly O'Neill has yet to win a game in the month of March since he joined the club four years ago - a total of 12 games without victory.

O'Neill will be desperate not to see a promising campaign fade in a similar scenario to last season, which saw them lose a commanding lead over Arsenal in the Premier League in the race for fourth place.

Sunday’s game though is the perfect opportunity to return to winning ways and book another trip to Wembley.

FORM GUIDE

Reading


27 Feb: Reading 5-0 Sheffield Wednesday (Championship)
24 Feb: West Brom 2-3 Reading (FA Cup replay)
20 Feb: Blackpool 2-0 Reading (Championship)
17 Feb: Crystal Palace 1-3 Reading (Championship)
13 Feb: Reading 2-2 West Brom (FA Cup)

Aston Villa

28 Feb: Aston Villa 1-2 Manchester United (Carling Cup)
24 Feb: Aston Villa 3-1 Crystal Palace (FA Cup replay)
21 Feb: Aston Villa 5-2 Burnley (Premier League)
14 Feb: Crystal Palace 2-2 Aston Villa (FA Cup)
10 Feb: Aston Villa 1-1 Manchester United (Premier League)

TEAM NEWS

Reading


The Royals will be boosted by the return of Republic of Ireland international Shane Long. The striker has missed the last four games due to suspension after he was sent off in the fifth round draw against West Brom. McDermott may leave him on the bench however, after the clubs recent good form.

Winger Jobi McAnuff is suspended for the game, while on-loan Blackburn defender Zurab Khizanishvili is cup-tied and will miss out.

Midfielders Jem Karacan and Kalifa Cisse are out injured with a hand injury and a dead leg, respectively.

Starting XI from last match (v Sheffield Wednesday): Federici; Ingimarsson, Bertrand, Griffin, Khizanishvili; Tabb, Kebe, Sigurdsson; Church, Howard, Rasiak.

Aston Villa

O'Neill will be wanting to name his strongest possible side in his quest to bring a trophy to Villa Park. Several players were away on international duty during the week however, so the manager will have to check they all arrived back in one piece.

Defender Richard Dunne pulled out of the Republic of Ireland squad that lost to Brazil on Tuesday night with a muscle injury, but the former Manchester City man should return.

Captain Stiliyan Petrov overcame a virus to face Manchester United last weekend and the Bulgarian should be fit enough to start again.

Starting XI from last match (v Manchester United): Friedel; Cuellar, Dunne, Collins, Warnock; A. Young, Petrov, Milner, Downing; Agbonlahor, Heskey.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Reading – Simon Church


The young striker won his seventh cap for Wales on Wednesday night and has been scoring frequently for the Royals this season.

Church has established himself as the leader of the Reading attack, notching 10-goals for club and country, including a memorial strike against Liverpool at the Madejski Stadium.

The 21-year-old has been on fire lately hitting four goals in his last five games, including a brace in Reading’s 5-0 demolition of Sheffield Wednesday last weekend.

Aston Villa- James Milner

The former Leeds United midfielder has been in fine fettle all season and is almost certain to be named in Fabio Capello's England squad for the World Cup this summer.

Milner is one of the first names on the Villa team-sheet this season with his work rate second to none. He has a great first touch, good vision and has popped up with some spectacular goals.

The versatile 24-year-old is the man that makes things tick for O'Neill's side and Reading will have to keep him quiet if they are to have any chance of progressing to the next round.

PREDICTION

Reading have been the giant-killers in the Cup this season with some impressive displays against Burnley and Liverpool.

Their league form however, has been less than spectacular particular at home and this tie could prove a step too far for Brian McDermott’s men.

Villa will still be smarting from their Carling Cup final loss to Manchester United, but they have a great chance of returning to Wembley in the FA Cup.

Their attacking flair of the likes of Gabriel Agbonlahor, Ashley Young and Stuart Downing may prove too much for the Royals to handle and their excellent run in the competition could come to an end.

Reading 1-3 Aston Villa

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