Rafael Benitez admits he is surprised by Reading's rocky start to their second Premier League campaign.
But the Liverpool boss still expects a tough task against the Berkshire side in Tuesday night's Carling Cup third-round tie at the Madejski Stadium.
Benitez is expected to field a side of youngsters and senior squad fringe players, with teenage centre-back Jack Hobbs and new French goalkeeper Charles Itandje making their debuts.
Benitez says: "Reading will give us a hard game, I am sure of that.
"But I have been surprised that Reading have not started the season as well as they played last season.
"I do not understand why. Last season they were really good, they knew what to do and with the same manager for some time, it clearly worked for them.
"It is strange that after one season the team are not playing as well and getting results, it is strange.
"I do not believe in what is called a second season problem after promotion. It depends on the players you have, nothing more. And they did a very good job last season."
Benitez will want to utilise several fringe players at Reading, but will not want to weaken the side to the extent that he could gift the tie to the Berkshire club.
The Spaniard will want to use this competition to keep players involved and try out several youngsters.
It is also expected that Brazilian midfielder Lucas Leiva will figure in the tie, as well as winger Sebastian Leto.
The likes of Moroccan midfielder Nabil El Zhar, fit-again Fabio Aurelio and young defender Emiliano Insua could also be involved.
Benitez is also expected to include Yossi Benayoun, who missed Saturday's goalless draw with Birmingham because of the Jewish day of atonement.
Peter Crouch and even Fernando Torres, both on the bench against Birmingham, could also play.
Benitez said: "For some of the players who are not playing too much in the Premier League or the Champions League, this will be an important competition for them.
"It is a trophy I would be happy to win, the first season I was here we got to the final. I would like to be in the final again.
"Some of the senior players will have to play against Reading, I will not change the whole team. It depends on who is available and what cover we have in certain positions.
"But I would hope to give players who are not playing regularly in the Premier League the chance to play."
Benitez added: "It is clear, though, that with a big squad we need to see some of the other players.
"They must be involved because you cannot have them in the squad and then tell them you will not use them in any game.
"If we stay in the Carling Cup, the FA Cup, the Premier League and the Champions League they will obviously have more chances to play."
utusanLFC : huh!... mixed of youngster and senior players (a.k.a Team B seniour players) is somewhat sounds like a recipe for another uncertainties... put Torres in. Let him score. Let the team feel the win after 3 games of stalemate...