READING, ENGLAND - AUGUST 18: Jobi McAnuff of Reading crosses as he is challenged by Marc Wilson of Stoke City during the Barclays Premier League match between Reading and Stoke City at Madejski Stadium on August 18, 2012 in Reading, England. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)
Game two of the Premier League season is very nearly upon us. Soon this will be all part of the routine, a slow, grey slog through our slow, grey winter lives, but for now football is new and fun and good. And with Chelsea hosting newly-promoted Reading, there's every chance that it stays fun and good for at least another few days.
Date/Time: Wednesday, August 22nd; 7:45 PM (BST), 2:45 PM (EDT). Thursday, August 23rd, 0:15 AM (IST).
Venue: Stamford Bridge, London.
TV information: ESPN2 (USA), ESPN and ESPN HD (India).
Team news: All-action Brazilian winger Ramires is back in the squad after an illness -- presumably he was struck down by a bout of being slightly too awesome for the universe to handle -- so we're back to full strength save for Marko Marin, who is out with a nagging hamstring problem.
Reading are, apparently, 'picking from the same squad that drew with Stoke'. So that's easy enough.
Tactically, there's not a whole lot to say that hasn't been thoroughly covered elsewhere. Expect Reading in a quintessentially English 4-4-2, and don't expect them to be scared of coming to Stamford Bridge. They'll have seen what Southampton nearly pulled off against Manchester City, and this season's Premier League newcomers are generally far stronger than the previous years' editions. They're not going to turtle up and hope to only be beaten by one or two.
Of course, that could be their undoing, because Chelsea are more than capable of some explosive attacking play, especially if another team comes onto them like Wigan Athletic did in the early stages of Sunday's match. While they're yet to prove that they can truly break opponents down, the Blues have demonstrated that they're still more than capable of reactive football, and if Reading come onto them they could hit them very, very hard. With a weekend game against Newcastle coming up, one would imagine that Roberto di Matteo will hope for a similar outcome to the opener -- score enough early goals that a win is secure and then relax.
The fact that this is a match on short rest also means that he's likely to take advantage of that squad depth we've been building up. Gary Cahill's a natural candidate to start over David Luiz with Reading's aerial threat, and we may see Frank Lampard rested too. With Ramires back, we can give some serious thought to plonking Juan Mata on the bench for a while, and I wouldn't even be shocked to see Daniel Sturridge start at centre forward.
Di Matteo's options make it very difficult to figure out how he'll play this, but let's try to project a lineup anyway:
Viciously quick, defensively sounds, gives Torres a chance to score a couple. Should be good enough for the win. Here's hoping.