David Wagner is ready to welcome Dean Whitehead back into the fold for Huddersfield Town’s FA Cup third-round replay at Reading (8.00).
The midfielder has missed nine matches because of a knee injury, but is in the travelling party for the first of two successive long-distance away games.
It’s Brighton and Hove Albion in the Championship on Saturday (Town will fly to both fixtures) but the head coach says that won’t come into his thinking when it comes to team selection.
Neither will the incentive of a home fourth-round tie against League I Walsall, with Wagner insisting: “At this stage, I am only interested in beating Reading.”
Wagner has prepared his players for the possibility of extra time and penalties, and said: “If fitness becomes a deciding factor, I am happy about our chances.”
Video: David Wagner at yesterday's press conference
The teams drew 2-2 in the original tie at the John Smith’s Stadium, and it was the same scoreline in their league game at the Madejski in November.
Sean Scannell is again ruled out, but fellow knee injury victim Kyle Dempsey is available while Joe Murphy will play in goal, with on-loan Jed Steer ineligible.
Whitehead last played in the 2-0 win at Birmingham City in early December, and Wagner added: “Dean is a very good and experienced player who always does the right things.
“We have missed him, of course, but the injury means he has had time out and will return refreshed and hungry.
“We need to build him up in the right way in terms of minutes on the pitch, but I believe the old Dean Whitehead will soon be back.”
It took a last-gasp Nahki Wells penalty to keep Town in the Cup and force the rematch, and Wagner is determined to take the second chance.
“We know even better than in the first games what to expect – a tough tie against a good side,” he said.
Video: Football reporter on Wagner's press conference ahead of FA Cup replay
“We have to play the way we did in the first 70 minutes of the first game and make use of our set-pieces, like we have done in the last two league matches.
“If we bring to the pitch what we are capable of bringing, we know this is a game we can win.”