If Reading are to stand any chance of leaving Stamford Bridge with a positive result, they must limit the influence of Eden Hazard.
Hazard singlehandedly secured all three points for Chelsea in the space of six devastating minutes against Wigan at the DW Stadium on Sunday.
The midfield maestro, who made his English Premier League debut after joining from Ligue 1 outfit Lille in a 32-million-pound deal, turned Wigan defender Ivan Ramis inside-out before sliding through an inch-perfect ball to set up Branislav Ivanovic for the visitors’ first goal on two minutes.
He was the catalyst again four minutes later, weaving his way into the penalty box and drawing Ramis into a foul. Frank Lampard converted the penalty and the game was all but sealed.
The man-of-the-match performance from Hazard thrilled manager Roberto Di Matteo.
“Hazard was outstanding,” he said. “He showed all his qualities and it was a pleasure to watch him. He was a big threat and difficult to mark.
“He combined well with his team-mates, exactly what we were looking for.”
With matches against top-four hopefuls Newcastle United and Atletico Madrid in the UEFA Super Cup, the games are coming thick and fast, and it will be important for the reigning Champions League winners to get another victory on the board.
However, the Premier League new boys will be determined to leave London with at least a point.
Reading marked their four-year absence from the top flight with a hard-fought 1-1 draw at home to Stoke City.
Goalkeeper Adam Federici, who kept 20 clean sheets in the Championship last season on his way to the Precision Goalkeeping Golden Glove Award, conceded a howler in the first half.
The Australian misjudged Michael Kightly’s effort and somehow managed to let the ball cross the line but super-sub Adam Le Fondre netted a 90th-minute penalty to salvage a point.
And coach Brian McDermott refused to point the finger at Federici for his error.
“I don’t have to say anything to Adam, he’s a top-class bloke and goalkeeper,” he said.
“Everyone makes mistakes, I know I make plenty of them myself and I have no problem with him at all.”
Expect a commanding display from Federici and an improved effort from close-season signing Pavel Pogrebnyak.
Chelsea have prevailed in three of the past four games against Reading and form suggests they are on course to claim their first victory at Stamford Bridge this season.