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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Chelsea's defeat at West Ham in December was our only our second reverse in the last 70 games against newly promoted teams in 12 years. We have won 56 of those matches.
The Blues are unbeaten away in eight games in all competitions (six wins, two draws) since our last defeat at West Ham on 1 December.
Of the 15 occasions Chelsea have opened the scoring in the Barclays Premier League, we have gone on to win 11 games and draw three. Only West Ham have defeated us.
Chelsea have the second best defensive league record behind Man City conceding 22 goals with nine clean sheets.
The Blues are 13 points better off compared to the corresponding 23 fixtures last season.
We have gained 12 points from losing positions this term. Only Man Utd (24), Everton (20) and Man City (15) can better that.
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