Who: Reading FC at Chelsea FC
Where: Stamford Bridge, London, England
When: Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2012
Time: 7:45 p.m. GMT/2:45 p.m. ET/11:45 a.m. PT
TV: ESPN2, ESPND (USA)
Internet: ESPN3 (Link)
Satellite Radio: Sirius Channel 92 (Internet 960)
Odds: Chelsea -1½, -120, Reading +1½, +100
3-Way Odds: Chelsea -400, Reading +1200, Draw +460
Total: Over 3 Even, Under 3 -120
Source: LVH SuperBook, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA
I like to be here
When I can
—Pink Floyd, “Time”
Chelsea has played in the Champions League final, the Community Shield, its 2012/13 English Premier League season opener and across America on tour, and now its time to return home to Fulham Road in west London for its first meaningful game at Stamford Bridge in quite some time when it hosts Reading FC on Wednesday.
So after dealing with the likes of some heavies like Bayern Munich, Paris Saint-Germain, the Major League Soccer All-Stars, AC Milan and Manchester City, the Blues will undoubtedly welcome The Championship-promoted Royals with open arms.
This match is being played midweek and was rescheduled because of Chelsea’s appearance in the UEFA European Super Cup against Europa League-winner Atlético Madrid on Aug. 31.
On paper and with oddsmakers, this looks like an easy win to the novice football fan (soccer to all us here in the United States) but not so fast brother. This should play out fairly similarly to Sunday’s 2-0 win at Wigan Athletic—a hard-fought victory against a game opponent.
Reading eked out a 1-1 draw against Stoke City in its opener on Saturday when Adam Le Fondre converted on a penalty kick at Madejski Stadium in Reading after goalkeeper Adam Federici gifted the Potters a 1-0 lead in the first half on a shot by Michael Kightly.
The Royals (27-8-11, 69 goals scored, 41 allowed in 2011/2012) won 17 of 23 matches in the second half last season to go from 23rd in the table to win The Championship, earning its valuable promotion to the EPL under manager Brian McDermott.
But facing the European champions (never get tired typing that) in their home opener in front of a raucous crowd will certainly put Reading to the test, and I expect Chelsea not to take the Royals lightly after going just 12-3-4 at The Bridge last season and having a tepid +17 goal differential (41-24) in those 19 home games.
One area Chelsea needs to improve on this season is time of possession, and after scoring twice in the first seven minutes in its win Sunday at Wigan, the Blues again fell into more of a defensive posture although it’s hard to be critical of that when a club has a 2-0 lead and is playing for the “W” and the three points.
Against Reading, Roberto Di Matteo and Co. can work on time of possession and, with so many talented midfielders on board, can now focus on that element of their game.
Parking the bus is a nice philosophy and we all know defense wins championships, but developing a solid scoring attack with guys like Fernando Torres, Juan Mata, Ramires, Eden Hazard, Daniel Sturridge, Marko Marin and Oscar needs to start sooner than later.
That being said, I expect Reading to be a feisty opponent which strikes some early fear into the hearts of the Chelsea faithful before the Blues find a way to score a goal or two to relieve the pressure and give the home crowd that expected win.
And with only two sides losing at home (QPR and Wigan) in the opening week of the new season, thinking the Royals have a chance to upset Chelsea at Stamford Bridge is a bit of a stretch but one only needs to look at how tough Southampton played defending league champions Manchester City at Etihad Stadium on Sunday.
In a meeting between these two clubs in Reading’s first season in the Premiership in 2006/2007, Royals midfielder Stephen Hunt collided with Petr Čech in the first minute of play and his knee fractured the Czech goalkeeper’s skull.
Since then, Čech has worn his signature protective headgear in every match.
Reading, who does have something in common with the Blues in a billionaire Russian owner in Anton Zingarevich, will be playing this season in hopes of staying in the top flight while Chelsea will be seeking a top-four finish in the league and to defend its Champions League crown among other things.
The Royals are winless in nine career matches at Stamford Bridge and only have earned one point in their four EPL meetings against Chelsea.
So, with the home-field advantage, the trends on their side, a roster loaded with expensive talent, a desire to play better and lofty expectations for the coming year, the Blues will find a way, by hook or by crook, to win this one.
And, as we saw last season with a deep and talented defense and Cech in goal, anything is possible—even your first European championship.
PREDICTION: Chelsea 2 Reading 0
BETS: Chelsea -1½, -120; Under 3, -120
PICKS LAST MATCH: 3-0-0
RECORD SEASON TO DATE: 3-0-0
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