Reading - Chelsea Preview: Relegation-battling Royals look to record first league win over the Blues since 1930
Brian McDermott's side have won their last four games in all competitions, scoring 12 goals, while their west London opponents have been in imperious form on the road
By Ewan Roberts
Kelly, Pearce, Mariappa, Shorey
Leigertwood, Guthrie, McAnuff
Kebe, Pogrebnyak, McCleary
Azpilicueta, Ivanovic, Cahill, Cole
Oscar, Mata, Bertrand
Reading boss Brian McDermott has an almost fully-fit squad to choose from, with just two notable absences. Goalkeeper Alex McCarthy (shoulder) is out, so Adam Federici will continue to deputise.
At the other end of the pitch, Jason Roberts (hip) remains sidelined, so Pavel Pogrebnyak is expected to start up front – the Russian striker was rested for the Royals' 4-0 FA Cup win over Sheffield United.
Chelsea are without Eden Hazard, who is serving a suspension for kicking a ballboy in the Capital One Cup; in the Belgian’s absence, Ryan Bertrand could be handed a starting berth on the left wing ahead of Marko Marin.
Nigerian duo Victor Moses and John Obi Mikel are both on Africa Cup of Nations duty, so remain unavailable for selection, while Oriol Romeu (knee) is the only long-term absentee.
John Terry started in the FA Cup against Brentford but is likely to return to the bench against Reading. David Luiz will not play, while Fernando Torres should keep his place up front after netting against the Bees.
Ross Turnbull is set to continue in goal following his appearance against Brentford, with Petr Cech (calf) still unavailable.
|DID YOU KNOW?|
- Reading have lost just one of their last seven games in all competitions, and won their last four (scoring 12 goals along the way).
- Only Leighton Baines (3.3) and David Silva (3) have played more key passes per game than Reading left-back Nicky Shorey (2.9). The 31-year-old (pictured) has also averaged more accurate crosses than any other player.
- The Royals, who sit in 18th place in the league, are one of just five teams yet to have a player sent off this season.
- No team has conceded more shots per game (18.2) than Brian McDermott's side.
- Only QPR (zero out of two) have won fewer matches when leading at half-time than Reading (one out of six); Chelsea have won nine of the 12 matches in which they've led at the break.
- Chelsea have not lost a league game against Reading since March 1930, and have won six of their last seven matches against the Royals in all competitions.
- The Stamford Bridge outfit have been in good form on the road under Rafa Benitez, recording four away wins on the bounce in the Premier League.
- No side has been awarded as many penalties (eight) as Chelsea; only Phil Dowd (eight) has pointed to the spot more times than Wednesday's referee Mark Halsey (six).
- The Blues had to come from behind against Reading at Stamford Bridge, overhauling a 2-1 deficit to win 4-2.
- Only Arsenal's Lukas Podolski (nine) has more Premier League assists than Chelsea's Juan Mata (eight); the Spaniard is also the Blues' joint-highest scorer in the league. Chelsea are 9/1 to win 3-0 with bet365.
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Top 3 Predictions
Reading 1-3 Chelsea FC
- 17.55 %
Reading 0-3 Chelsea FC
- 12.34 %
Reading 0-2 Chelsea FC
- 10.99 %
|Premier League (EPL)||30 Jan 2013||Reading 2 - Chelsea FC 2|
|Premier League (EPL)||22 Aug 2012||Chelsea FC 4 - Reading 2|
|Club Friendlies (FRC)||1 Aug 2009||Reading 2 - Chelsea FC 2|
|15 Mar 2014||Reading 0 - Derby County 0||ENG2|
|11 Mar 2014||Leeds 2 - Reading 4||ENG2|
|8 Mar 2014||Brighton & Hove Albion 1 - Reading 1||ENG2|
|1 Mar 2014||Reading 1 - Yeovil Town 1||ENG2|
|22 Feb 2014||Reading 0 - Blackburn Rovers 1||ENG2|
|9||Adam Le Fondre||Striker|
The tricky winger has been in excellent form in 2013, scoring or assisting six goals since the turn of the year. The 25-year-old was the star performer in the Royals' demolition of Sheffield United in the FA Cup, capping a fine performance with a well-worked goal, and came off the bench to help Reading overturn a two-goal deficit against West Brom. His pace will worry Chelsea on the break, as will his accurate delivery.
The veteran scored on his last visit to the Madejski Stadium back in 2007 (and netted against the Royals earlier this season too), and has enjoyed something of a renaissance in the past few months; the 34-year-old has struck five times in his last seven Premier League appearances. But the ageing midfielder's fitness will be called into question on Wednesday if he's asked to start his sixth game in just 19 days.
Chelsea have been brutally efficient on the road in recent weeks, though the absence of Eden Hazard is a problem and the Blues have a very evident lack of goals off the bench. Free-scoring Reading are in the midst of a purple patch at the moment and are full of confidence, but Chelsea should have enough creativity and guile to see off the relegation-battling Royals.
Times In BST
Live Final scheduled Suspended Cancelled Postponed