Chelsea’s 0-0 draw with Arsenal in February meant that if both teams won out from that point, we would top the table by a point at the end of the season. Thanks to a few scheduling changes, we are now finally equal on games played — and Chelsea do in fact sit atop the table by that point, with a better goal difference by five after last weekend’s 9-0 beatdown of Leicester City. The trick, of course, is continuing to claim three points at every opportunity.
However, Reading are one of the reasons we have no margin for error. The Royals defeated Chelsea 1-0 in December as part of our VH1-sponsored Worst Week Ever, which concluded with the Blues being dumped out of the Champions League by Wolfsburg.
In order to remain top and exact revenge for the aforementioned loss, Chelsea must deal with one of the most unpredictable sides in the league.
Date / Time: Wednesday, March 23, 18.45 BST; 1:45pm EDT; 11:15pm IST
Venue: Kingsmeadow, Kingston Upon Thames, UK
Forecast: Clear; 48°F/9°C
How to watch: Sky Sports Main Event (UK); NBCsports.com (USA); The FA Player (most other int’l markets)
Chelsea team news: It’s been a long time since Chelsea went into a match with all players available, dealing with injuries from day one (Maren Mjelde, new signing Lauren James) and then throughout, including plenty of positive COVID-19 test.
And that situation has no thcanged. Magdalena Erikson has just returned from injury as James and Mjelde continue ramping up their minutes, but now Fran Kirby and Pernille Harder are out and both for seemingly an indefinite period. Kirby might only need some rest, but Harder’s problem sounds slightly more worrying.
“With Pernille, her knee just keeps flaring up a little bit — a little bit of swelling there, so they’re taking time to get that right and Fran is just not recovered. She might be available in a week, she might not be.”
-Emma Hayes; source: ChelseaFC
The only silver lining here is an upcoming international break in which Harder should be able to rest and recover. It will be needed: her presence is always missed because she’s such a dynamic player, but it will be difficult to face this home stretch with one or both of Harder and Kirby.
Reading team news: Reading are a bit of a weird side. Sometimes they look to be a top half of the table side that may only be a piece or two away from challenging for top-5. Other times they’re scrapping it out with newly promoted Leicester City. Of course, they can also be a team who beat Chelsea 1-0.
Manager Kelly Chambers is good at doing all of the classic things a smaller side needs to do to frustrate a side at the top of the table (stay compact and organized, pounce on opportunities to get in behind on the counter). Chambers and Reading know what it takes to beat Chelsea, and if they’re getting behind on the counter early, prepare for a long, frustrating match.
Previously: Chelsea’s only non-Arsenal league blemish came against Reading. It wasn’t fun. I hated it. Here are the ... “highlights”.