Tonight may well bring home debuts for new boys Eden Hazard and Oscar (pictured above), as Stamford Bridge hails the conquering heroes of Munich for the first time.
Chelsea’s strike force will have looked avariciously at Stoke’s opening goal on Saturday and Aussie keeper Adam Federici’s howler that created it. Reading’s shirt sponsor, the posh foodstore Waitrose, certainly don’t do giveaways as generous as that.
On the evidence of Sunday at Wigan, last season’s problem of starting games sluggishly appears to have been addressed by Roberto Di Matteo and co. However, just six shots on the Latics’ goal (Chelsea’s lowest tally in the league since September 2007) suggests there is plenty of scope for improvement. This is surely a game to test the visiting keeper’s confidence at will.
The Blues exposed Wigan’s fashionable 3-4-3 formation down the flanks but Reading play a more rigid 4-4-2, with veteran Ian Harte, still a threat from set-plays, and young Chris Gunter their defence-first full-backs. A possibly decisive factor will be how well former Newcastle grafter Danny Guthrie and Mikele Leigertwood (pictured below left) in central midfield cope with the quick feet and vision of Juan Mata and Eden Hazard, the Chelsea playmakers already linking well in the final third.
Wigan were not without their chances on Sunday, with free headers amid the Chelsea defence that might well have proved costly. Reading’s new signing from Stuttgart, Pavel Pobgrebnyak, impressed early on loan at our neighbours Fulham earlier this year. The tall, burly Russian target man started with five goals in three games at Craven Cottage before tailing off, and it was Reading who took the summer gamble with hard cash instead.
This game comes too early for Marko Marin, the Germany winger having missed much of pre-season through a hamstring injury.
Roberto Di Matteo does have leather-lunged midfielder Ramires back again after the illness that prevented him participating in the opening match victory over Wigan.
Former Chelsea schoolboy striker Jason Roberts is suspended for Reading, and central midfielder Jem Karacan is still doubtful because of a leg injury.
Another regular in their Championship-winning campaign, winger Jimmy Kébé, could return to make his first Barclays Premier League start since May 2008.
The Blues have won nine of our last 11 games at Stamford Bridge with the goalless draw against Tottenham and a defeat to Papiss Cissé and Newcastle.
Our home record last term was 12 wins, three draws and four defeats.
Chelsea’s defeat at QPR last season was our only reverse in the last 67 games against newly promoted teams in over 11 years. We have won 55 of those matches.
2012/13 Premier League scorers
Ivanovic 1, Lampard 1 (pen).
League games since
A home win: 0
A home draw: 4
A home defeat: 1
John Terry is due to play his 550th game for the club tonight. He needs one goal to reach 50 in all competitions for the Blues
If selected, Florent Malouda will make his 150th Premier League appearance and Juan Mata his 50th start tonight in all competitions
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.
This is the Royals’ first away game in the top flight for over four years since their 4-0 win at Pride Park against Derby County.
In winning the Championship last term Reading had the best defensive record, keeping 20 clean sheets and conceding 41 goals in 46 games but they scored the fewest goals of any team in the top five – 69.
Their away record was 13 wins, three draws and seven defeats.
Manager Brian McDermott
Days in charge 983
||AFC Wimbledon (a)
||Sheffield Wed (Vilamoura)
||Crystal Palace (h)
2011/12 league scorers
Le Fondre 1 (pen)
League games since
An away win: 1
An away draw: 6
An away defeat: 0
Ins Danny Guthrie (Newcastle, free), Pavel Pogrebnyak (Stuttgart, free), Pierce Sweeney (Bray, usdisclosed), Nicky Shorey (West Brom, free), Chris Gunter (Nottingham Forest, £2.5m), Adrian Mariappa (Watford, £2.5m), Garath McCleary (Nottingham Forest, free), Stuart Taylor (Manchester City, free).
Outs Mathieu Manget (FC Sion, undisclosed), Tomasz Cywka (Barnsley, free), Michail Antonio (Sheffield Wednesday, undisclosed), Michael Hector (Shrewsbury, loan), Angus MacDonald (AFC Wimbledon, loan), Joseph Mills (Burnley, loan), Karl Sheppard (Accrington Stanley, loan), Gozie Ugwu (Yeovil, loan), Brian Howard (released), Andy Griffin (released), Jack Mills (released), Mikkel Andersen (Portsmouth, loan), Jordan Obita (Portsmouth, loan).
Ins Eden Hazard (Lille, undisclosed), Marko Marin (Werder Bremen, undisclosed), Thorgan Hazard (Lens, undisclosed), Oscar (Internacional, undisclosed)
Outs Didier Drogba (out of contract, now Shanghai Shenhua), Salomon Kalou (out of contract, now Lille), José Bosingwa (out of contract, now QPR), Marko Mitrovic (released, now Brescia)), Rhys Taylor (released, now Southend), Jeffrey Bruma (Hamburg, loan), Thibaut Courtois (Atlético Madrid, loan), Ulises Davila (Sabadell, loan), Kevin De Bruyne (Werder Bremen, loan), Matej Delac (Vitória Guimaräes, loan), Rohan Ince (Yeovil, loan), Tomas Kalas (Vitesse Arnham, loan), Milan Lalkovic (Vitória Guimaräes, loan), Patrick van Aanholt (Vitesse Arnham, loan), Ben Gordon (Birmingham, loan), Romulu Lukaku (West Brom, loan), Sam Walker (Bristol Rovers, loan), Sam Hutchinson (Nottingham Forest, loan), Conor Clifford (Portsmouth, loan), Josh McEachran (Middlesbrough, loan)
THE MAN IN THE MIDDLE
Lee Mason was the official against Blackburn in our last home game in May. He hasn’t refereed Reading for over two and a half years. Chelsea have won eight and drawn four of the 12 games he has officiated.
Jason Roberts is suspended for Reading after a red card at the end of last season.