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PRE-MATCH BRIEFING: READING V CHELSEA

Club historian Rick Glanvill and club statistician Paul Dutton continue their look at tonight's game...

TACTICAL BRIEF
Key battles
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.

Pogrebnyak and Terry

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.

Squad fitness news
Petr Cech (calf), David Luiz (ankle) and Oriol Romeu (knee) are unavailable for Chelsea.

Reading are without striker Jason Roberts (hip) problem while fellow forward Noel Hunt is a doubt.



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PRE-MATCH BRIEFING: READING V CHELSEA

CHELSEA STATS
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.


Last six results
Jan 9 Swansea (League Cup semi-final 1st leg h) L 0-2
Jan 12 Stoke (a) W 4-0
Jan 16 Southampton (h) D 2-2
Jan 20 Arsenal (h) W 2-1
Jan 23 Swansea (League Cup SF 2 a) D 0-0
Jan 27 Brentford (FA Cup 4 a) D 2-2


Premier League scorers
Lampard 8 (4 pens), Mata 8, Torres 7 (1 pen), E Hazard 6 (1 pen), Ivanovic 4, Ramires 3, Cahill 2, Ba 1, Cole 1, D Luiz 1, Moses 1, Oscar 1 (pen), Sturridge 1, Terry 1, own goals (Walters, Stoke) 2. Total 47


League games since
An away win: 0
An away draw: 6
An away defeat: 4


Chelsea's next three games
Sat 2 Feb Newcastle away 3pm
Sat 9 Feb Wigan home 3pm
Thu 14 Feb Sparta Prague (Europa League) away 6pm GMT


MILESTONES
If selected, Gary Cahill will play his 50th game for the club and Fernando Torres will make his 50th Premier League start for Chelsea.


READING STATS
Formed
1871.

Major trophies
None.

Reading's minor honours include the Full Members' Cup in 1988 and the 2005/06 and 2011/12 Football League Championship as well as several lower division championships.

Reading have played 12 fewer games than Chelsea.

Reading are in their best form of the season winning nine points from the last 12. They have gained 11 points from losing positions this season.

Only Wigan, with 25, have conceded more league goals at home this season than Reading's 21.

The Royals have won 14 points from a possible 33 at the Madjeski this term with three wins against Everton, West Ham and West Brom, five draws against Stoke, Newcastle, Fulham, Norwich and Swansea and three defeats to Tottenham, Manchester United and Arsenal.

Reading have conceded the first goal in 13 of their 23 league matches and have come back to win in three of them.


Manager Brian McDermott
Days in charge: 1,141
Played 162
Won 75
Drawn 42
Lost 45


Royals' last 10 year league history

Pts Pos Division Level
2002/03 79 4th Division One 2
2003/04 70 9th Division One 2
2004/05 70 7th Championship 2
2005/06 106 1st Championship 2
2006/07 55 8th Premier League 1
2007/08 36 18th Premier League 1
2008/09 77 4th Championship 2
2009/10 63 9th Championship 2
2010/11 77 5th Championship 2
2011/12 89 1st Championship 2

 

PMB

 

Last six results
Dec 29 West Ham (h) W 1-0
Jan 1 Tottenham (a) L 1-3
Jan 5 Crawley (FA Cup 3 a) W 3-1
Jan 12 West Brom (h) W 3-2
Jan 19 Newcastle (a) W 2-1
Jan 26 Sheffield United (FA Cup 4 h) W 4-0



2012/13 Premier League scorers
Le Fondre 8 (3 pens), Pogrebnyak 5, Kébé 3, Robson-Kanu 3, Hunt 2, Morrison 2, Gorkss 1, Guthrie 1, Leigertwood 1, McCleary 1, own goals 1. Total 28


League games since
A home win: 0
A home draw: 2
A home defeat: 3


WINDOW WATCH
Completed January transfers
Chelsea
Ins Demba Ba (Newcastle, undisclosed)
Outs Daniel Sturridge (Liverpool, undisclosed), Lucas Piazon (Malaga, loan), Todd Kane (Blackburn, loan), Billy Clifford (Colchester, loan), Sam Walker (Colchester, loan)
Reading
Ins Hope Akpan (Crawley Town, undisclosed), Daniel Carrico (Sporting Lisbon, £609,000), Stephen Kelly (Fulham, undisclosed)
Outs Gozie Ugwu (Plymouth, loan), Dominic Samuel (Colchester, loan)


THE MAN IN THE MIDDLE
Mark Halsey handled the Blues' 3-1 win at Sunderland in December; he was in charge during Reading's 3-4 home defeat by Manchester United the week before.


OTHERWISE ENGAGED
Eden Hazard is suspended (second of three games).

Victor Moses and John Mikel Obi are away with Nigeria at the Africa Cup of Nations.

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