Royals boss on FA Cup clashSteve Clarke is relishing the opportunity to progress to the quarter-finals of the FA Cup when his Reading side take on high-flying Derby County at the iPro Stadium on Saturday.
In a competition where numerous favourites have already fallen by the wayside this season, Clarke is plotting the Royals’ own upset against Steve McClaren’s promotion-chasing Rams. And with a disappointing result at home to Leeds United on Tuesday night still fresh in the minds of many fans, the trip north offers Clarke’s men a timely chance for redemption.
“I know the players were disappointed with the result on Tuesday night and they are desperate to make amends this weekend,” he said. "We go to Derby in a good frame of mind, ready to bounce back. The players are up for it, and the manager is up for it as well so we look forward to going there and having a right go at them and trying to progress. We’re certainly one of the underdogs. It’s been a cup of shocks so far this season, and if we went to Derby and win it would be classed as a small shock.”
The Royals navigated tricky ties against Championship rivals Huddersfield Town and Cardiff City to reach the Fifth Round of this year’s competition, and are aiming for another high-profile scalp as they edge closer to Wembley. However McClaren’s side stand in their way, a point off the top of the table and unbeaten in five matches.
Rams top scorer Chris Martin picked up an injury against Bournemouth in midweek, but the Reading boss is well-aware of the threat that this weekend’s opposition pose.
“Derby are in great form this year. They’re probably one of the favourites, if not the favourite, to go up to the Premier League automatically this season. They’ve got a lot of good players. If you lose one striker and you’re putting Darren Bent in his place it shows that you have a strong squad.
"Will Hughes is, in my opinion, one of the best midfield players in the Championship. He will play in the Premier League for sure, so they have a good strong squad but so do we. We go expecting a tough game. They’ve already beaten us twice this year. We know what to expect, and we know it will be difficult. We’ve worked hard to be at this stage and we’re going to work even harder to try and get to the quarter-finals.”
With more than 1500 Royals fans already confirmed as heading north for Saturday’s game, Clarke is confident that his team produce a performance to make them proud.
“It’s good for me to hear that the supporters are looking forward to the game,” he said. "The fact that they’re going to travel to Derby in good numbers tells you that they go there with hope and expectation, and hopefully we can deliver for them.”