Wed 30 Jan 2013 20:00 (Attendance: 24,097)
The away games keep coming with the trip to Berkshire the third in a sequence of four. Club historian Rick Glanvill and club statistician Paul Dutton hit the road again…
Pecked by the Swans, stung by the Bees, Chelsea mislaid one match (the Capital One Cup final) and gained another (the fourth round FA Cup replay at the Bridge on Sunday 17 February) over the last week. We remain on course for a record number of matches in one season.
By beating last season's Championship winners Reading 4-2 at the Bridge back in August, Chelsea went top of the table for the first time since the successive defeats by Sunderland and Birmingham City in November 2010.
Eden Hazard, suspended from tonight's encounter, was the catalyst for the gung-ho Blues, who took an early lead but were rocked by two quick strikes from the visitors. Substitute Daniel Sturridge provided the impetus for his side to regain the initiative with three decisive goals in the last quarter of the game.
It was not an entirely convincing victory and Chelsea have since dropped points against Reading's fellow new boys West Ham and at home to Southampton. Surprisingly, promoted sides have hit seven league goals against the champions of Europe this season. This is a relatively new reversion to an age-old problem.
The Londoners were famous for decades for beating the best and losing to the lowly. Yet that old inconsistency dropped away in the 1990s. Up until the defeat at QPR in 2011/12, in fact, the Pensioners had been unbeaten against newly promoted teams for over 11 years. QPR, again, and West Ham have both since managed to defeat Chelsea.
It's true 2011/12 was the first for more than a decade in which all promoted sides maintained their first-tier status, and the Royals are the most endangered of the new intake.
And although they are in good form, prior to the present sequence of four successive victories in league and FA Cup they had not strung two wins together all campaign. They are currently one point from safety.
Reading may also have the worst second-half record in the Barclays Premier League this season, but the Blues have been far more effective in the first half of matches too.
The 'first 45' Chelsea have a record bettered only by Manchester United, with 26 goals scored and just eight conceded. Over the second periods of games we have scored five fewer and let in six more.
Throughout the season the Royals have been involved in huge aggregate scorelines, including a 2-5 and 5-7 with Arsenal, a 3-4 at home to Manchester United, a 3-3 with Fulham and, of course, that 2-4 against Chelsea (pictured below). All except the Blues' victory were at the Madejski Stadium.
The Blues have enjoyed success in the last four away trips in the league with an aggregate scoreline of 10-2, ending the unbeaten records of Everton and Stoke in the process. It is a momentum that could be crucial as the Blues look to finish as high as possible in the league.
Barclays Premier League fixtures
Arsenal v Liverpool 7.45pm - Sky Sports
Everton v West Brom 7.45pm
Fulham v West Ham 8pm
Manchester United v Southampton 8pm
Norwich v Tottenham 7.45pm
Reading v Chelsea 8pm
|Barclays Premier League table|
The race for the Premier League Golden Boot
Robin van Persie (Manchester Utd) 18
Luis Suarez (Liverpool) 16
Demba Ba (13 for Newcastle) 14
Michu (Swansea) 13
Race for the Premier League Golden Glove
Joe Hart (Manchester City) 11
Petr Cech 9
Asmir Begovic (Stoke) 9
Simon Mignolet (Sunderland) 9
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Club historian Rick Glanvill and club statistician Paul Dutton continue their look at tonight's game...
In contrast to the FA Cup-holders' away draw at the weekend, Reading enjoyed a one-sided 4-0 victory over Sheffield United and rested one or two regulars.
More than half star performer Adam Le Fondre's appearances have started from the bench. Before last weekend the only full 90 minutes he had played in 2013 was the previous 3-1 FA Cup win at Crawley.
The best indication of his effectiveness is that in his last 47 minutes of Premier League football the 26-year-old has hit three goals. He is not the traditional English centre-forward, liking the ball played along the ground, and is adept at finding dangerous areas in the final third and shoots virtually on sight.
John Terry began his return to match fitness at Griffin Park on Sunday and is more likely to face the more physical presence of Pavel Pogrebnyak (pictured below) should he retain his place, as seems likely.
Terry's leadership and communication were evident on Sunday and have been sorely missed since he hobbled off against Liverpool in mid-November, having scored the opening goal.
Rafael Benitez must decide whom to play alongside Terry and whether to reinstate the partially rested Cesar Azpilicueta at right-back.
The manager has confirmed Petr Cech's absence this evening but forecast his possible return at St James' Park at the weekend.
Reading boss Brian McDermott has used a defensive 4-5-1 formation in recent games, with two of his wingers Jimmy Kébé, Jobi McAnuff and Gareth McLeary asked to work up and down the flanks tirelessly. Teams that have sat back and deployed hard-working widemen have enjoyed notable success against Chelsea all season.
Without the game-changing trickery and pace of Eden Hazard and Victor Moses down the lines the Blues may find it even harder to break teams down. The progress of Moses and fellow Nigerian John Mikel Obi at the Africa Cup of Nations means they will not return from South Africa before the Wigan game at the earliest.
Juan Mata should return to the starting line-up and possibly Demba Ba, one man who will definitely fancy his chances of scoring tonight. The Senegalese striker hit both Newcastle United's goals in their 2-2 draw at the Madejski Stadium in September, the first with a magnificent striding volley, the second under a suspicion of handball.
Meanwhile, at Brentford Fernando Torres hit his first goal since the opener in the 8-0 pre-Christmas thrashing of Aston Villa. It was set up by substitute Ba, who was playing alongside him - more food for thought for Chelsea's manager.
Reading are without striker Jason Roberts (hip) problem while fellow forward Noel Hunt is a doubt.
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WE HAVE HISTORY
This fixture was first played in November 1926 in Division Two, although there was one FA Cup meeting at Elm Park in January 1921, a 0-0 draw.
The legacy of our most memorable league encounter is still visible most matchdays - Petr Cech's cap. The Chelsea goalie was hospitalised after Reading midfielder Stephen Hunt, in his first Premier League start, caught him on the head in the opening minutes of a match in October 2006.
Carlo Cudicini replaced the Czech before being stretched off himself after a clattering from defender Ibrahima Sonko towards the close of play. Emergency keeper John Terry saw out the last moments between the sticks.
Earlier Mourinho's Chelsea had pressed for the breakthrough and when Ivar Ingimarsson met Paulo Ferreira's whipped cross he was fortunate to see it rebound off the bar with Marcus Hahnemann beaten.
Winger Arjen Robben and strikers Andriy Shevchenko and Didier Drogba put further pressure on the Royals goal before Sonko fouled Frank Lampard on the edge of the area just before the break.
The midfielder recovered to drive a low shot past Hahnemann off Ingimarsson's boot and put the Blues a goal to the good. Despite two sendings-off - Mikel for Chelsea and André Bikey for the hosts - Chelsea held on to the lead, with Drogba hooking a Nicky Shorey header off the line to help secure the three points.
Today Chelsea are looking to extend our unbeaten record against the Royals to eight games. We have won six and drawn one of the last seven meetings.
The Royals' last league win against the Blues was 83 years ago in March 1930 at Elm Park in the old Second Division when goals from Alf Messer, Walter Baggett and Frank McPherson secured the points at Elm Park. Harold Miller scored for the Blues. George Pearson missed a penalty.
|Our six league games at Reading|