Manchester City must overcome Ukrainian club Dynamo Kiev if they are to extend their Europa League campaign into the quarter-finals.
City secured top spot in Group A on goal difference ahead of Lech Posnan and booked their place in the third round with a 3-0 aggregate win over Greek club Aris Salonika.
Third in the English Premier League, seven points behind leaders Manchester United, City are unbeaten in their last six matches in all competitions and won 1-0 at home to Wigan Athletic on Saturday.
They are also through to the quarter-finals of the FA Cup and have a strong chance of reaching the last four in that competition, if they can beat Reading.
The FA Cup tie against Championship opposition comes just three days after their trip to Kiev, in what is shaping as a decisive month for manager Roberto Mancini.
While the Italian coach’s priority remains Champions League qualification, he will be keen for the team to progress in both the Europa League and FA Cup in a bid to end City’s 35-year trophy drought.
But Dynamo will be no pushovers in Thursday’s first leg.
Experienced European campaigners, they topped Group E ahead of Belarusian club BATE Borisov, beating the Eredivisie’s AZ Alkmaar home and away.
An 8-1 aggregate victory over Turkish side Besiktas in the second round was a further indication of the threat they pose.
Dynamo are coached by Yuri Syomin, who led the club to the league championship in 2008/09, and are second in the Ukrainian Premier League this season.
They beat Metalurg Donetsk 2-0 away from home on Sunday in what was their first domestic match since November following a three-month winter hiatus.
City are without second-choice goalkeeper Shay Given and wide midfielder Adam Johnson through injury, while centre-back Kolo Toure is suspended indefinitely following a failed drug test.
James Milner is also in doubt for the trip to Lobanovsky Dynamo Stadium with a hamstring problem.