Chelsea return to Reserve team duty on Monday in a big week for all three major levels of football at the club. On Wednesday the senior team will look to progress in the Champions League at home to Olympiakos, whilst on Friday the Youth Team will be looking to strike the first blow in the first leg of the FA Youth Cup Semi Final against Aston Villa. Up first, however, are Brendan Rodgers’ reserve team charges, as Reading come to Griffin Park.
With the youngsters playing on Friday night, there is every chance the team Rodgers will be able to name will be slightly weaker than usual, with a number of faces likely resting up for the bigger match at the end of the week. Rhys Taylor, Patrick van Aanholt, Sergio Tejera, Michael Woods, Jacob Mellis, and Miroslav Stoch – all regulars for the Northern Irishman this season – will be involved on Friday night at Stamford Bridge.
That could open the door to some of the more forgotten reserve names of this season. Fabio Ferreira and James Simmonds could line up on the wings with Scott Sinclair’s loan move to Charlton ruling him out, whilst Phil Younghusband could come into the midfield with Jimmy Smith. Blues fans will be hoping for the return of Sam Hutchinson from an injury that has kept him out of most of this season. If the young defender isn’t fit to return, Harry Worley may take the place alongside Carl Magnay at the heart of defence. Stuart Searle may deputise for Taylor in goal.
So this Monday’s team could feature a little more dead wood than most followers of this team may like, but ultimately the more talented and younger players have bigger fish to fry and Chelsea have little to play for at reserve level. The same cannot be said for Reading. The Royals are four points off the top of the FA Premier Reserve League South, thanks in no small part to a selection policy incorporating many first team Premiership names alongside some talented younger names.
Last week, Brian McDermott’s men drew at Aston Villa with Adam Federici, Ulises de la Cruz, Liam Rosenior, Andre Bikey, Jimmy Kebe, Shane Long and Leroy Lita in the team. Some of the more talented younger names on their books (such as James Henry and Scott Golbourne) are out on loan, but Olivier Bozanic, Viktor Illugason and Alan Bennett are all still with the Royals and are expected to feature. Naturally, with such a strong team usually available to them, they’ve been finding the back of the net with some regularity, recording a 6-0 win over Birmingham and notching five against Derby and in the return fixture with Birmingham.
Rodgers will be desperate to get back into action after the last fixture against Aston Villa was called off due to a frozen pitch. The team selected for that night featured five strikers and included Andriy Shevchenko. The Ukrainian scored for a reserve team last week in a behind-closed-doors friendly win over Arsenal, and is an outside chance to make an appearance as he’s still looking for match fitness ahead of his full return. The same goes for new Serbian defender Branislav Ivanovic.
This fixture last season actually look place right at the start of the campaign in August 2006, as Reading won 2-1 down at Aldershot, Phil Younghusband scoring.
Kick off is at 7pm at Brentford’s Griffin Park stadium. Admission is just £5 for adults and £3 for juniors / senior citizens (cash at the turnstiles) and is free for Chelsea Season Ticket holders on production of their card. Why not go along and support the Blues? In terms of getting to Griffin Park, the nearest train station is Brentford, which can be reached by a regular service from Waterloo and Clapham Junction. By tube, Gunnersbury is about one mile from the ground on the District Line. A match report will follow on CFCnet.