Chelsea will have a chance to close the gap on Manchester City to three points when they travel to Premier League strugglers Reading. Reading will be doing their utmost to upset the odds and climb out of the Premier League’s bottom three.
Reading have lost the exact same number of games at home as Arsenal and Liverpool (3). Their problem has been that they haven’t been able to turn draws into wins with five draws weighing up against just the three victories. Only Wigan have conceded more goals at home so far this season which means Reading are the underdogs.
Reading’s Injuries and Suspensions:
Goalkeeper Alex McCarthy is likely to miss the match as he continues to nurse a shoulder injury. Jason Roberts will also play no part in the fixture with a hip problem. Hal Robson-Kanu is the only other doubt for the match with a knee injury sustained in the recent match against West Brom.
Chelsea head into the game with one of the best away records in the division with seven wins, two draws and just two defeats. Both attack and defence have been solid with 21 goals scored against the eleven conceded. Chelsea thumped Stoke City 4-0 away from home in their last league away match.
Chelsea’s Injuries and Suspensions
John Obi Mikel and Victor Moses remain away at the African Cup of Nations with Nigeria. David Luiz could be on the bench after suffering a sprained ankle. Petr Cech will not play either due to injury and inability to recover quickly.
Oriol Romeu remains out for the rest of the season after the club confirmed he needed knee surgery.
Midfielder Mikele Leigertwood is uncertain why the Reading’s form has improved in recent weeks – similar to last season when they won 16 of their 21 games after Christmas.
“I don’t know what the secret is,” Leigertwood said. “It’s just something that seems to happen. We’re not in a great position still, but we have done well of late and given ourselves a good chance to do well. Four wins on the spin, two in the cup – wins breed confidence. We want to win games and have to deal with the pressure. We are confident at the moment and we can’t look too far ahead.”
Chelsea were eliminated from the League Cup last Wednesday when they drew 0-0 at Swansea to lose 2-0 on aggregate. They also had Belgium midfielder Eden Hazard sent off for kicking out at a ball boy who failed to release the ball.
The Blues also came close to an embarrassing FA Cup defeat at third-tier Brentford last Sunday. The Blues trailed 2-1 before Fernando
Torres grabbed an equaliser in the 84th minute. Chelsea interim manager Rafael Benitez was chastised by some of Chelsea’s traveling supporters when he left the field at halftime, and then heard the chant of “You Don’t Know What You’re Doing” when he sent on defender Cesar Azpilicueta instead of striker Demba Ba late on in the game with his side still one goal behind.
Benitez played down the fans’ criticism after the match and pointed to Juan Mata’s performance after the Spaniard midfielder came on as a substitute at the start of the second half.
“I have said before that I am just concentrating on my job,” said Benitez. “I try to stay really focused and I can guarantee Juan Mata changed the game when he came on,” he said. “The club said they wanted a manager with experience and I will try to do my job.”
Probable Lineups :
Kelly, Pearce, Mariappa, Shorey
Leigertwood, Guthrie, McAnuff
Kebe, Pogrebnyak, McCleary
Azpilicueta, Ivanovic, Cahill, Cole
Oscar, Mata, Bertrand
Key Stats :
- Chelsea haven`t lost to Reading since 1930 when Reading triumphed 3-1.
- In the five league games since then, Reading have suffered five losses
- If you look at all competitions, Chelsea have lost just 3 times in 19 matches.
- 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.
Good away form in the league against a rejuvenated Reading side. A tough match to call, for sure. 2-1 to Chelsea.