PRE-MATCH BRIEFING: CHELSEA V READING
The last time Stamford Bridge was full it was wishing the team well for Munich. Now it welcomes back champions. Club historian Rick Glanvill and club statistician Paul Dutton are ready for Reading…
Munich is the gift that keeps on giving. As a result of Chelsea's qualification for the UEFA Super Cup on 31 August this match was brought forward nine days in the schedule. There are no other midweek fixtures.
Fortuitously, that offers the Blues the chance to steal an early march on Barclays Premier League rivals with Manchester United, Spurs and Arsenal dropping points in the first encounters of the campaign.
It is also the Bridge's first chance since the victory parade to hail the Champions League heroes, as well as welcome new boys Eden Hazard, Oscar and Marko Marin.
Sunday's win at Wigan also secured our first clean sheet in nine games, 14 including pre-season, since Arsenal away in April. Chelsea remain undefeated in all first games of the season since 1998 when we lost to Coventry.
Branislav Ivanovic's early strike was timed at 1' 48" and may well be the earliest opening day goal in our history. (Pre-war goal timings can be hard to verify, so if anyone has evidence to the contrary we would love to hear from you - email email@example.com)
In recent years the quickest was in 2010, which will toll a bell for our present manager, Roberto Di Matteo. He was on the receiving end as West Bromwich Albion boss when Florent Malouda netted the first after six minutes (pictured below) in what would be a 6-0 thrashing at Stamford Bridge.
So far, though, the closest we have found to rival Ivanovic's speed of strike is four minutes, recorded by several players including Gordon Durie at home to Sheffield Wednesday (2-1, Division One) in 1987, Nigel Spackman four years later against Derby County (5-0, Division Two), Bobby Tambling at Wolves in 1964 (3-0, Division One), and George Mills in August 1937.
The latter is timely. Liverpool lost 0-3 at West Brom on Saturday, their worst opening day since that visit to the Fulham Road 75 years ago. Mills hit three that day in a 6-1 hammering for the Scousers, with Jimmy Argue, Harry Burgess and Billy Mitchell completing the rout.
No Chelsea player that day was making his debut, unlike substitute Oscar and starter Eden Hazard at the DW, who both displayed quality for all to see. With two impressive assists in seven minutes, has any new player raised a huzzah! from Chelsea supporters so rapidly as the inventive new no.17?
Only, perhaps, had he started the game with a Princess Eugenie-style fascinator on his head might Hazard have drawn more instant attention.
The corollary to such extravagant talent is suffering persistent bad tackling from the opposition - Hazard was the most fouled player in France over two seasons there. Wigan spread that responsibility, and therefore the referee's disapproval, around the team.
At one point the man in the middle, Mike Jones, witnessed another obvious attempt to clobber the newest famous Belgian and instead of simply admonishing the assailant, summoned his skipper too, showing he knew what was going on.
Other officials might take note.
Last season's top eight
Last season's Championship top eight
WE HAVE HISTORY
Chelsea are looking to extend our unbeaten run at Stamford Bridge against Reading to 10 games stretching back to our first meeting in the FA Cup in January 1921.
The Berkshire club are in just their third top-tier campaign. Their most recent visit in January 2008 was settled in London's favour by a Michael Ballack goal (pictured below) just past the half-hour mark.
The German midfielder powered home Paulo Ferreira's cross with his head, and the result meant that the club record of nine successive wins in all competitions had been equalled.
A bizarre own-goal handed Reading an unlikely point on Boxing Day 2006. Didier Drogba had scored twice, either side of former Blues trainee Leroy Lita's goal, to set José Mourinho's team on course for victory.
But an unusually wayward Ashley Cole clearance late in the match rebounded off Michael Essien, past Henrique Hilário. The Portuguese was in goal following the injury inflicted on Petr Cech by Stephen Hunt in the earlier meeting at the Madejski Stadium.
That Stamford Bridge draw was one of a sequence over the festive period that severely damaged the Premier League champions' hopes of retaining the title for a third season in succession.
The Royals' last league win against the Blues was in March 1930 in the old Second Division when goals from Alf Messer, Walter Baggett and Frank McPherson secured the points at Elm Park. Harry Miller scored for the Blues.
Our previous six league meetings at Stamford Bridge
1926/27 - Drew 0-0
1927/28 - Drew 0-0
1928/29 - Chelsea won 2-1
1929/30 - Chelsea won 1-0
2006/07 - Drew 2-2
2007/08 - Chelsea won 1-0
Chelsea v Reading in all competitions
Games played 18
Chelsea wins 9
Royals wins 3
Head to head in the League at Stamford Bridge
Games played 6
Chelsea wins 3
Royals wins 0
Biggest league win at Stamford Bridge for each team
Chelsea 2-1 Reading - 27/04/1929
Chelsea played at Stamford Bridge: 104
Reading last played away in the Premier League: 1,567
Arsenal won a trophy: 2,650
Liverpool won the league: 8,145
Visit Wednesday lunchtime for part two of Pre-Match Briefing.