Reading v Chelsea – Match preview and team news

In-form Reading could pile more misery on Rafa Benitez and his struggling Chelsea side as the European Champions make the short trip to the Madejski Stadium.

The hosts may currently sit 19th in the Premier League table but with a better goal difference than both Aston Villa and Wigan directly above them, will know that a point will be good enough to take them out of the relegation zone. Indeed, manager Brian McDermott may be targeting all three points after a run of form that has seen the Royals win their last four on the spin in all competitions and suffer only one defeat in their last seven games.

McDermott will give a fitness test to striker Noel Hunt after he picked up a knock in the 4-0 FA Cup romp over Sheffield United on the weekend, although the Irishman may not have featured anyway due to the form of Pavel Pogrebnyak and Adam Le Fondre off the bench. Jason Roberts is still out with a thigh injury while new signing from Sporting Lisbon Daniel Carrico is unlikely to feature.

Chelsea may currently be sitting in third place but all is clearly not well at Stamford Bridge, where interim boss Rafa Benitez remains hugely unpopular with the fans due to inconsistent league form, an ignominious Capital One Cup semi-final exit to Swansea City without scoring, before then almost suffering the humiliation of going out of the FA Cup to League 1 outfit Brentford on Sunday.

Fernando Torres rescued a draw to give the Blues a replay and the Spaniard could be handed a start at the Madejski, where he once scored a hat-trick for previous side Liverpool, ahead of Demba Ba. Elsewhere, Eden Hazard serves the second of a three-match suspension while doubts remain over the injured Petr Cech and David Luiz.

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