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Key Battles: Bradford City v Reading FC

From the 06.10 service from Reading to Bradford, @_EStacey gives his views on three key battles for Reading's FA Cup quarter-final at Bradford City.

Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

On my four-and-a-half-hour journey from Reading Station to Bradford Interchange this morning (6am start!), I thought it'd be a good idea to give the travelling Reading faithful a small preview of the three key battles to look out for this afternoon.

Billy Knott vs Chris Gunter

Chris Gunter, having recently come back from injury will be under scrutiny later this afternoon when he will most likely be faced with former Chelsea and West Ham trainee Billy Knott. Knott, 22, is a left-footed midfielder with a 'high-intensity, high-energy' playing style, something Gunter is usually quite capable of producing himself.

Knott played one game for Sunderland back in May 2013, on the last day of the 2012-13 Premier League season, coming on as a substitute in a 1-0 defeat to Tottenham at White Hart Lane. He had a few loan spells to clubs including AFC Wimbledon, Woking, Wycombe Wanderers and Port Vale before joining Bradford City in May of last year.

The former England Under-20 international has scored four goals in 26 games for the Bantams and played the first 80 minutes of City's 4-2 fourth round giant-killing of Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in January. He described that win as the greatest achievement of his career. To add to that, he even received a signed Chelsea shirt from Blues' captain John Terry.

Knott also featured in Bradford's 2-0 home win over Gus Poyet's Sunderland in the last round of the FA Cup in February.

Gunter has played reasonably well in a faltering Reading side of late and more of the same will be expected this afternoon. When out injured, Stephen Kelly, whose contract is up at the end of the season with no apparent mention of renewal, filled in well and may be feeling the negative effects of fatigue due to a busy schedule. Anyway, I'll be surprised if Gunter doesn't start. The Wales international may have to be at the top of his game if he is to halt the dangerous left boot of Billy Knott.

Phil Parkinson vs Steve Clarke

It definitely wouldn't be an appropriate article without mentioning the Reading legend Phil "Parky" Parkinson who is the manager of our opposition today.

Parky and Steve Clarke will both be looking to get their respective teams into the semi-finals of the FA Cup at Wembley today. Clarke having already been to Wembley on numerous occasions when assistant under José Mourinho at Chelsea, will know what it means to play on the hallowed Wembley turf. Hopefully, Clarke's experience will overcome the emotion of playing an in-form giant-killing side with a former Reading fans' favourite as boss and Reading will prevail.

Parkinson, who played 361 games, scoring 20 goals, as a midfielder for the Royals, has already managed to steer his Bradford City side to Wembley when he helped them reach the final of the League Cup in 2013. This was achieved after famous wins against Premier League opposition including Arsenal and Aston Villa. His team eventually finished as runners-up, losing to Swansea City 5-0 in the final.

Bradford qualified for the League Two play-off semi-final after a successful league campaign in the same season. Thanks to a win over two legs against Burton Albion, Bradford were promoted to League One after beating Northampton Town 3-0 in the final.

Parkinson has been incredibly successful in his three-year tenure as manager of the Yorkshire side and has become a fans favourite, receiving the nickname 'the real special one' following the win at Stamford Bridge.

Fingers crossed for a Reading win after a battle between two highly successful managers that could well go either way.

James Hanson vs Alex Pearce

Finally we come to Bradford's talismanic striker James Hanson. Hanson, 27, after his side's shock victory in the Cup over Chelsea, was praised by Blues' captain John Terry. Hopefully this time however, roles will be reversed and our own Alex Pearce will be on the receiving end of the praise.

Pearce, along with centre-back partner Michael Hector have been shaky in recent matches with some moments of good individual quality appearing occasionally. The pair seem to play better away from home and luckily we have managed to grab yet another away draw in the FA Cup this season following successful trips to Huddersfield and Derby.

Hanson, despite not making it onto the score sheet, played an influential part in the Bantams' win at Chelsea in February, and for that reason, his tussle with Pearce will be one I'll be looking at closely at the game this afternoon in preparation for my tactical and statistical review of the encounter.

I have every confidence in our Republic of Ireland centre-back and will be backing him to come good this afternoon along with a Reading side with the support of 4300 loyal fans making the five hour journey up North!