Chelsea travel to the Madejski Stadium on Wednesday evening, for a Premier League fixture that could prove to a difficult one for the London club. The Royals are on a significant high and have won five of their last six games (including four in a row) and will also be pleased by Saturday's 4-0 FA Cup win over Sheffield United.
The Blues, meanwhile, have had a rocky week, falling from the highs of a 2-1 home win over Arsenal to a consecutive draws to Swansea City in the league and Brentford in the FA Cup. Indeed, it could have been much worse for Rafael Benitez's side, had Spain international Fernando Torres not popped up with an 82nd minute equaliser to force the replay.
These sides last met in August and goals from Torres, Gary Cahill, Frank Lampard and Branislav Ivanovic gave Chelsea a 4-2 win.
Reading will begin Wednesday's games in 19th place; a win could see them jump to 17th and out of the relegation zone, with Aston Villa (1-2 to Newcastle United), QPR (0-0 to Manchester City) and Wigan Athletic (2-2 at Stoke City) all failing to pick up maximum points on Tuesday.
Chelsea are presently in third and will kick-off against Reading from the same position, regardless of results for fourth and fifth-placed Tottenham and Everton.
Where to Watch
Kick-off is set for 8pm GMT. Catch highlights of the game on BBC One and BBC One HD's Match of the Day, at 10.25pm GMT.
Reading produced an emphatic display to see off League One side Sheffield United in the fourth round of the FA Cup, with goals Noel Hunt grabbing a brace. The relegation-threatened club seems to have found a rich vein of form in the first month of 2013, with the 3-1 defeat to Spurs, at White Hart Lane, the only defeat so far. Moreover, vital wins against Newcastle and a morale-boosting 3-2 defeat of the formerly high-flying West Brom have built a good platform for Brian McDermott's side to move out of the bottom three.
The excellent run aside, the fact the club have only conceded five goals in five matches this calendar year will not have escaped Benitez; Chelsea have scored 15 in the same period (eight matches) but were held to a disappointing goalless draw in their last away league game (against Swansea).
The Royals' home form is acceptable, with only three defeats in 11 games so far and they are unbeaten at home since the 2-5 thumping from Arsenal in mid-December.
Chelsea were fortunate to escape from the FA Cup tie against Brentford with a draw and two consecutive poor performances have placed the pressure back squarely on Benitez. The ex-Liverpool boss appeared to have turned a corner with the home win against Arsenal but a third poor result in a row will no doubt force owner Roman Abramovich to seriously consider his tenure in the summer... or maybe even right now, particularly if the chasing pack make up points in this round of games.
In Benitez's defence, January has been a brutal month for the Blues, with a total of nine fixtures scheduled. From an overall perspective, therefore, a record of three wins, three defeats and two losses is not catastrophic... particularly with the absence of players at the 2013 African Cup of Nations.
Furthermore, Chelsea are unbeaten since the 0-2 home defeat to Swansea in the Capital One Cup and have not lost a league match since the 0-1 home defeat to QPR on 2 January.
The Stamford Bridge club's away form - seven wins and two draws from 11 games - coupled with a goal difference of +10 does suggest they are more than likely to come away with all three points. However, the fact Reading have scored 18 times at home this season means the Chelsea defence will have to be on guard... an early goal for Reading might make it a difficult evening for the visitors.
- Last Five (all competitions, most recent first): W W W W L
- Last Match: Reading 4 - 0 Sheffield United
- Last Five (all competitions, most recent first): D D W D W
- Last Match: Brentford 2 - 2 Chelsea
McDermott has only two injury worries - goalkeeper Alex McCarthy (shoulder) and striker Jason Roberts (hip). He is likely to recall Russian striker Pavel Pogrebnyak for this game, after resting him for the FA Cup tie.
The weekend's goal scoring hero, Noel Hunt, is a doubt for this game as the 29-year-old Irishman battles an unspecified illness. It appears unlikely, as of now, that Reading's bid for Blackpool ace Thomas Ince will go through and new signing Daniel Carrico is not expected to play just yet; the Portuguese is still settling into his new team and surroundings. There are unlikely to any major surprises elsewhere.
Probable Line-Up: Federici; Kelly, Pearce, Mariappa, Shorey; Leigertwood, Guthrie, McAnuff; Kebe, Pogrebnyak, McCleary
Chelsea will be without Belgian forward Eden Hazard, who continues a three-match suspension for the red card against Swansea. The Stamford Bridge club will also be without Nigerian internationals Victor Moses and John Obi Mikel; the two are away on international duty. Spanish midfielder Oriel Romeu (knee) is out for the season.
Captain John Terry played against Brentford but may not be picked for this game. Fellow defender David Luiz (ankle) is also ruled out; the Brazilian has no fixed return date. Aside from Hazard, perhaps the biggest loss for Benitez is goalkeeper Petr Cech, who has yet to recover from his calf strain.
Probable Line-Up: Turnbull; Azpilicueta, Ivanovic, Cahill, Cole; Ramires, Lampard; Oscar, Mata, Bertrand; Torres
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