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Last Updated: Monday, 25 December 2006, 16:44 GMT
Hunt calm ahead of Chelsea trip
Stephen Hunt
Hunt is expecting a hostile reception at Stamford Bridge
Stephen Hunt is not concerned about the reception he will get when Reading travel to Chelsea on Boxing Day.

Blues keeper Petr Cech suffered a fractured skull in a collision with Hunt when the teams met in October.

"You always look forward to playing the champions," he said. "I don't know what type of reception I'm going to get.

"I've had letters from Chelsea fans saying I did nothing wrong. I can't control anything like that. All I can control is how I play on the day."

Chelsea mifidelder Michael Essien said: "Everything that happened is put to one side, although it is still fresh in our memory.

"But he needn't worry about coming here - nothing is going to happen."

It is a game that will be played off the field as much as on it

Reading boss Steve Coppell

Cech had emergency surgery after the incident and was initially expected to miss the rest of the season, although he is now set to make a comeback early in 2007.

Hunt told BBC Sport recently that he expected a hostile reception at Stamford Bridge, but he added: "I'm sure if I got a kick then the person coming to Reading would get booed.

"I can't affect the reception I get - all I can affect is what I do on the pitch.

"But at the same time, people are not stupid. They know it was an accident and the majority of people - probably the majority of Chelsea fans - know I didn't mean to do it."

In the same game, Chelsea's replacement keeper Carlo Cudicini was knocked out after being pole-axed by Ibarahima Sonko and Reading boss Steve Coppell admits he will be relieved when the rematch is over.

"It is not just a game, it is a little bit more than a game. It is a game that will be played off the field as much as on it," he said.

"We just want to play football. We are what we are and we don't profess to be anything different.

"We don't need issues - we just want to get on with it."

With the game kicking off at 1300 GMT, Chelsea could go top of the Premiership with a victory over Reading, who have not won in four games.

That would put pressure on current leaders Manchester United, who host Wigan in a 1500 GMT kick-off.

United bounced back from the shock defeat to West Ham with a comfortable 3-0 win over Aston Villa on Saturday.

Manager Sir Alex Ferguson believes Cristiano Ronaldo, who scored twice at Villa Park, can lead his side's title push.

"At the moment Cristiano is as good as any of the other players in the country," said Ferguson.

"He is unbelievable and the lad is in great form. He has eight goals now and he could get us 15 this season. That is what he is capable of."

Elsewhere, in-form Liverpool will look to hang on to third place when they travel to Blackburn, a match which sees Craig Bellamy return to his old club on a run of four goals in five games.

"We are now seeing the Craig Bellamy I wanted when we signed him in the summer," said Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez.

Newcastle United should be looking for Europe every season

Newcastle boss Glenn Roeder

"He has quality and pace and can get behind defenders, and he is doing all that now."

Liverpool's opponents could find themselves in the relegation zone if results do not go their way.

Mark Hughes' side are only a point and a place above the relegation zone and could be overtaken by a resurgent West Ham, who host Portsmouth.

Basement club Watford face a daunting trip to Arsenal in a 1715 GMT kick-off.

Newcastle's recent form has seen them move away from the relegation zone and manager Glenn Roeder is now targeting a place in Europe.

"Newcastle United should be looking for Europe every season, no matter where they are," said Roeder, whose side face Bolton at the Reebok Stadium.

"It has been a massive turn-around. The players have knuckled down and got the points.

"We were in a bit of a precarious position at the start, but it has been good. It is nice to see all the hard work that has been done on the training pitch finally paying off on the pitch."

Boxing Day's other games see Everton host Middlesbrough, Aston Villa travel to Tottenham and Sheffield United face Manchester City at Bramall Lane.

Fresh from unveiling Alan Pardew as their third manager of the season on Christmas Eve, Charlton face Fulham on Wednesday.

SEE ALSO
Sonko 'scared' by death threats
22 Dec 06 |  Reading
Cech could make January comeback
19 Dec 06 |  Chelsea
Hunt ready for Chelsea
13 Dec 06 |  Reading


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