Manchester City have won their last five games against Wigan Athletic without conceding a goal and The Lactics have the worst home defensive record in the league so many people will give Wigan no hope against the champions.
However underestimate Wigan at your peril is becoming a common theme in the Premier League as Manchester United, Newcastle, Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal have all discovered this calendar year.
Whatever the end result there is several battles that will undoubtedly decide this tie.
The Chilean wing-back is an integral part of the Wigan system under Roberto Martinez. An all-South American battle down that flank will pit him up against Maicon or Zabaleta depending on what Mancini decides will do the trick in this fixture. Whoever gets the nod for the champions Beausejour must avoid being pegged deep into his own half which would allow City to dominate possession in the attacking third. A delicate balancing act has to be achieved as the former Birmingham man is often Wigan’s best outlet offensively and if he is on top form can put either full-back under serious strain throughout.
James McArthur v Yaya Toure
McArthur has just returned from a dead leg after four games out and had a good run-a-round against Reading in the 3-2 win this weekend. His return is key to a Lactics side struggling desperately with injuries ahead of a difficult fixture. It will be the job of both midfield Scotsman to earn possession in the centre of the park with Yaya Toure the main threat surging forward from the heart of midfield. If McArthur can do anything to nullify that threat it will go a long way toward earning something from this game.
Adrian Lopez v Sergio Aguero
Gary Caldwell faces a late fitness test so in the end Lopez may not have to feature but with Ivan Ramis out with a hamstring problem there is a chance that ‘Piscu’ will be asked to play just his seventh Premier League game. He has featured twice before against City in 1-0 and 3-0 defeats respectively and he will be tasked with stopping Aguero as City’s frontline striker. If Caldwell does not recover Aguero could have a field day against the Spaniard.
Roberto Martinez v Roberto Mancini
Probably the most important battle of all is between the last Roberto’s standing in the Premier League. Will Mancini go like for like with a back-three? It is a possibility while Martinez may adopt more of a back five to soak up pressure and play on the counter attack with the pace of Arouna Kone key. Martinez has serious selection headaches as Caldwell, Maloney, Ramis, Myaichi, Alcaraz and Watson are all potentially ruled out of this fixture. Will Mancini go with Tevez or Dzeko? These decisions will be the ones that truly affect the game.
As always when Wigan face top opposition the Omani stopper is going to have to be in top form. He made a rare error against Reading at the weekend dropping the ball into his own net to gift the Royals an equaliser and his relief was palpable when Jordi Gomez wrapped up his hat-trick. Tevez, Aguero, Dzeko, Silva, Nasri, Toure… any combination of this motley crew will certainly test the rumoured Liverpool target and he will have to be on his best form to help Wigan to anything but defeat.
How do you think the game will end?
image: © illarterate