Crystal Palace manager Alan Pardew returns to former club Reading in the FA Cup quarter-finals at the Madejski Stadium on Friday night looking to salvage the Eagles’ season.
Following a 0-0 draw with Swansea in their last match of 2015, the Eagles were fifth in the Premier League, but they have picked up just two points from 30 available since then and are the only club in the top four division without a league win in 2016, which has seen them slip down to 15th in the standings.
Progressing in the FA Cup is now their best chance of success this term, and Pardew will certainly be confident of reaching the semi-finals after his team saw off three Premier League sides – Southampton, Stoke and Tottenham – in the previous rounds.
The 54-year-old spent four seasons in charge of Reading between 1999 and 2003, before he resigned.
Meanwhile, the Royals are in similar situation to their opponents with regards to their league campaign, sitting nine points above the Championship relegation zone and 12 points from the play-offs positions.
With either of those permutations looking increasing unlikely to happen in the coming weeks, the Berkshire outfit will want to progress in one of the world’s most famous domestic cup competitions, especially with a trip to Wembley guaranteed in the next round.
And they have pedigree too. This is the fourth time they’ve reached the quarter-finals in the last seven seasons, and they made it to the semi-finals a year ago too, where they were beaten by the eventual winners, Arsenal.
The hosts have Paul McShane and Hal Robson-Kanu back from injury, but their top goalscorer in the FA Cup this term, Matej Vydra, is doubtful with a hamstring problem.
McDermott will also be without George Evans and Yann Kermorgant, who are both cup-tied.
For Palace, Jason Puncheon could return to the starting line-up after missing six games with a hamstring injury, while goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey is also fit again, and he could replace Alex McCarthy, who made an error in the 2-1 defeat to Liverpool on Sunday, between the sticks.
The in-form Connor Wickham also remains on the sidelines, while Marouane Chamakh is suffering from a knee problem.
League Position: Reading – 14th (Championship – 44 pts); Crystal Palace – 15th (Premier League – 33 pts)
Previous Meeting: Reading 2-2 Crystal Palace (April 21, 2012)
Form: Reading – DWWWDL; Crystal Palace – DLWLDL
Key Men: Reading – Hal Robson-Kanu; Crystal Palace – Yannick Bolasie
Shoot Says: Reading 1-2 Crystal Palace