As the dust settles on an eventful opening weekend of Premier League football, there will be quiet satisfaction at both Chelsea and Reading as they prepare to meet each other in the first midweek game of the season.
A big summer build-up that didn’t always go to plan for either side went pretty alright on the night and as respective bosses Roberto di Matteo and Brian McDermott reflect on an unbeaten start, both managers will be fairly pleased with their weekend’s work.
Chelsea’s blistering start at Wigan, where they were two goals up inside six minutes, was enough to secure all three points and that 2-0 win has allowed the Blues to steal an early march on their rivals, with Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur losing, while Arsenal also dropped points at home.
Not only that, but the performance of new boy Eden Hazard will have Di Matteo, as well as Roman Abramovich, smiling from ear to ear. The Russian owner has splashed the cash this summer and the money spent on the former Lille forward already looks like it is going to be a fine investment.
Despite fancying Chelsea, I wouldn’t rule out a Reading goal. McDermott’s men only failed to score nine times in 46 games last season and may be able to take advantage of a Blues defence that leaked ten goals in pre-season.
The Belgium international had a hand in both Chelsea goals – a stunning turn and pass for the first, drawing a foul in the penalty box for the second – and what’s more, he stood up to the physical threat Wigan posed throughout.
Together with Brazilian Oscar, who made a very promising cameo, Chelsea look to have much more variety in their play and will hand out some thumpings over the next nine months.
Reading will endeavour to ensure they aren’t on the end of one and McDermott will be pleased that his side travel to Stamford Bridge with a point on the board. A 1-1 draw was the least the Royals deserved against Stoke on Saturday, even if it did take a late Adam Le Fondre penalty to grab a share of the spoils, and Reading did enough to suggest that they will win games at this level.
But Chelsea at Stamford Bridge is a different ball game to Stoke at home and the Royals are going to struggle here. The Blues are 1/4 to win, with Reading 23/2 and the draw at 17/4 and it is hard to see anything other than a home win.
Reading did boast a terrific away record in the Championship, winning 13 games on their travels and seven of their 11 trips to other teams in the top half, but this is a real step up in class and Chelsea look to have more creativity and invention in their side than they have for some time.
Getting the exact blend right will take some time, but with Juan Mata lively and Fernando Torres looking interested once more, the Blues have attacking riches that Reading will struggle to cope with and a quick start similar to the one Chelsea produced at Wigan could be too much for the Royals. It makes the 7/10 on Chelsea being ahead at half-time and going on to win much more appealing than the 1/4 on any kind of home success.
But despite fancying Chelsea, I wouldn’t rule out a Reading goal. McDermott’s men only failed to score nine times in 46 games last season – most of those in their post-play-off hangover at the start of the year – and may be able to take advantage of a Blues defence that leaked ten goals in pre-season and didn’t look too convincing against Wigan on Sunday, either. So the 31/10 that the Blues win 2-1, 3-1 or 4-1 is worth an outside punt.
New customers can register here to claim a free £20 bet or click here to see all our Premier League odds.
Follow us on Twitter @bwin