LONDON (SE) - Brian McDermott will be hoping his Reading side can secure a long-awaited victory as they welcome Chelsea to the Madejski Stadium on Wednesday evening.
Reading (4-7-12) have not won a league game against Chelsea (13-6-4) since March 1930, and have lost six of their last seven matches against the Blues in all competitions. However, Reading's good recent run of results, combined with Chelsea's erratic form, will give McDermott cause for optimism.
Reading have lost just one of their last seven games in all competitions, and won the last four. The Royals thrashed Sheffield United 4-0 in a fourth-round FA Cup tie last Saturday, while they won 2-1 at Newcastle on Jan. 19 in their last Premier League match.
Substitute Adam Le Fondre scored both goals at St James' Park to earn the Royals their first away win of the season.
Midfielder Mikele Leigertwood is uncertain why the Reading's form has improved in recent weeks - similar to last season when they won 16 of their 21 games after Christmas.
"I don't know what the secret is," Leigertwood said. "It's just something that seems to happen. We're not in a great position still, but we have done well of late and given ourselves a good chance to do well. Four wins on the spin, two in the cup - wins breed confidence.
"We want to win games and have to deal with the pressure. We are confident at the moment and we can't look too far ahead."
Chelsea were eliminated from the League Cup last Wednesday when they drew 0-0 at Swansea to lose 2-0 on aggregate. They also had Belgium midfielder Eden Hazard sent off for kicking out at a ball boy who failed to release the ball.
The Blues also came close to an embarrassing FA Cup defeat at third-tier Brentford last Sunday. The Blues trailed 2-1 before Fernando Torres grabbed an equaliser in the 84th minute. Chelsea interim manager Rafael Benitez was chastised by some of Chelsea's traveling supporters when he left the field at halftime, and then heard the chant of "You Don't Know What You're Doing" when he sent on defender Cesar Azpilicueta instead of striker Demba Ba late on in the game with his side still one goal behind.
Benitez played down the fans' criticism after the match and pointed to Juan Mata's performance after the Spaniard midfielder came on as a substitute at the start of the second half.
"I have said before that I am just concentrating on my job," said Benitez. "I try to stay really focused and I can guarantee Juan Mata changed the game when he came on," he said. "The club said they wanted a manager with experience and I will try to do my job."
Reading will be without goalkeeper Alex McCarthy (shoulder) and striker Jason Roberts (hip). Chelsea have doubts over goalkeeper Petr Cech (leg) and defender David Luiz (ankle). Victor Moses and John Obi Mikel are both on Africa Cup of Nations duty with Nigeria, while Hazard is suspended following his red card at Swansea.
Chelsea had to fight back from a goal down to beat Reading 4-2 at Stamford Bridge in this season's reverse fixture on Aug. 22. The Royals led 2-1 with a little over 20 minutes left on the clock before late goals from Torres, Gary Cahill and Branislav Ivanovic claimed all three points for the Blues.