Who: Reading FC vs. Chelsea FC
What: English Premier League, Matchweek 24
Where: Reading, England, UK
When: Wednesday, January 30, 2013
Weather: The Weather Channel forecast
Time: 20:00 GMT/3 p.m. ET/12 p.m. PT
Television: Fox Soccer Plus (USA)
Referee: Mark Halsey
Three-Way Odds: Chelsea -250, Reading +500, Draw +333
Total: Over 2.5 -161, Under 2.5 +120
Decimal Odds: Chelsea 1.40, Reading 6.00, Draw 4.33
Decimal Total: Over 2.5 1.62, Under 2.5 2.20
Fractional Odds: Chelsea 2/5, Reading 5/1, Draw 333/100
Fractional Total: Over 2.5 31/50, Under 2.5 6/5
Source: Sportsbook.com (Curaçao, Netherlands Antilles)
Alternate Point Spreads
Chelsea -1 -150, Reading +1 +115
Chelsea -1.5 +125, Reading +1.5 -165
Chelsea -2 +220, Reading +2 -300
Over 3 -115, Under 3 -115
Over 3.5 +120, Under 3.5 -155
Source: Bovada (Kahnawake, Canada)
If you knew before the English Premier League season started that heading into February Chelsea would be No. 2 in both scoring and goals allowed (least) and sitting in third place in the league table, you would have thought everything was peachy keen at Stamford Bridge, right?
Guess again, Susie.
Anyone not following the Blues closely lately would think all this angst and ill will is much ado about nothing, but diehard Chelsea fans know there is certainly room for some concern in West London.
On Wednesday, the Blues take Sgt. Roman's Angry Hearts Club Band on the road to Reading to face the Royals, which, odds-wise and on paper, looks like a mismatch. But almost all Chelsea games have been an enigma over the last year, so absolutely anything is possible at Madejski Stadium.
Fresh up from the Championship league, Reading (4-7-12) is currently in 18th place and will no doubt be fighting to get out of the drop zone from now until the end of the season.
In their last match this past weekend, the Royals shut out Sheffield United 4-0 to earn a spot in the fifth round of the FA Cup, where they will unfortunately have to face Premier League leaders Manchester United at Old Trafford on Feb. 16.
Despite their very frightful spot in the standings, Reading has actually won four straight in all competitions—outscoring opponents 12-4 in the process—and have just one loss in their last seven games.
Pavel Pogrebnyak, Noel Hunt and Adam Le Fondre lead the charge for the Royals offensively and could provide fits for Chelsea, who may again be without starting goalkeeper Petr Cech, who was replaced by backup Ross Turnbull in the Blues' disappointing draw at Brentford on Sunday.
Pogrebnyak has scored three goals in his last four league games, Hunt notched a brace against the Blades and Le Fondre is the club's leading scorer in Premier League action with eight goals.
In the previous meeting this season in West London, the Blues doubled up on Reading 4-2, and in five previous in the top flight, the Royals have earned just one point against the European champions.
For manager Brian McDermott and Reading, catching Chelsea at this point in time and at home is a blessing of sorts, but trying to hold down a team with the second-most goals in the league (47) when you're tied for allowing the second-most goals (43) will no doubt be the key.
To do just that, Australian goalkeeper Adam Federici will have to be at his best if Reading is to improve on its 3-5-3 mark at Madejski (18 goals for, 23 goals against).
Chelsea (13-6-4) head into this game with another thin squad with Cech and David Luiz likely out with nagging injuries, Eden Hazard suspended and John Obi Mikel and Victor Moses playing for Nigeria in the Africa Cup of Nations.
As if that weren't enough, captain John Terry really looked fragile in his semi-return versus Brentford, and vice captain Frank Lampard and Juan Mata must be exhausted with all the football they have had to play lately.
And interim manager Rafael Benitez is bemoaning the fact that Chelsea's roster is too small when the club has 23 dudes out on loan in every corner of the Milky Way galaxy?
Ah, those rich-girl problems.
After Fernando Torres started against Brentford at striker in the Blues 4-2-3-1 formation, expect Demba Ba to get the call here, while Gary Cahill, Branislav Ivanovic, Ramires and Oscar will have to all step up in a really big way.
And if he's in goal, Turnbull will certainly have to be in better form, or Chelsea again may be in for its latest Embarrassment of the Week.
With a 7-2-2 mark (21 goals for, 11 goals against), the Blues have been as effective away from home as they have been at The Bridge and, sitting 11 points off United on top of the table, most definitely can't afford to lose, or even tie, games like this one.
As much of a roll as Reading have been on, it will no doubt make this one interesting, but then again, almost all Chelsea games have had their share of drama in the last year or more.
Either Pogrebnyak or Le Fondre should score one for the homeboys, while I see Ba breaking out with a brace and ole reliable Mata tallying one for the Blues in a fairly high-scoring duel in the Thames Valley.
BETS: Chelsea -1 -150 (Bovada), Over 2.5 -161 (Sportsbook.com)
PREDICTION: Chelsea 3, Reading 1
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