Friday, December 18, 2009
ESPN Soccernet Preview: Wigan v Bolton
• Live on ESPN UK at 2000 GMT on Monday
A 3-1 win over West Ham on Tuesday night was Bolton's first victory since October 25 but the green shoots of recovery were evident in a 3-3 draw at home to Manchester City three days previous. After a mini-renaissance, Gary Megson's team are now two points behind a Wigan side that have also struggled for form this season.
The Latics immediately responded to the infamous 9-1 rout at the hands of Tottenham when beating Sunderland 1-0 but have failed to build on those three points, losing to Birmingham and Liverpool and drawing away at Stoke.
With wins at a premium for both sides, this meeting of two teams from the north west has taken on added importance and the last Premier League tie before Christmas looks a finely-balanced one.
Wigan player in focus: Jason Scotland. Roberto Martinez made a concerted effort to bring the striker with him when swapping Swansea City for Wigan over the summer, but Scotland has not repaid his faith as yet. He has failed to score in 17 appearances in the top flight and missed a golden opportunity to open his account when hitting the bar against Liverpool. Hugo Rodallega is bearing the burden of goalscoring by himself at present and Scotland needs to step up to the mark.
Bolton player in focus: Ivan Klasnic. The Croatian striker was another summer signing but has had no problems finding the back of the net, scoring four goals in his last four games, including two in a 3-3 draw with Manchester City on December 12. Klasnic is Bolton's top scorer in the Premier League and has forced his way into Gary Megson's starting line-up with some influential performances.
Key battle: Hugo Rodallega v Gary Cahill. In the battle of arguably the two best players on the pitch, Bolton defender Cahill will be tasked with subduing Rodallega, who has scored six goals in the league this season. The Colombian is an awkward customer but if Cahill can produce the kind of performance that has seen him tipped for international honours, then Wigan could find their attack blunted.
Tactics: Wigan usually deploy two strikers at home with Scotland, still searching for his first Premier League goal, partnering Rodallega in a positive-looking side. Intriguingly, Bolton may adopt the same approach as Kevin Davies and Ivan Klasnic have forged an encouraging partnership, even if Megson retains a natural instinct to frustrate opponents away from home. If Megson plays both forwards, and the attacking talent that is Lee Chung-yong, then they will be vulnerable on the break but it could make for a surprisingly-entertaining game.
Quotes: Roberto Martinez on Wigan's imminent back-to-back home games: "We have got two big games coming up, against Bolton and Blackburn, and that's where our concentration has to be now. Every game at home is our responsibility to try to dictate the game and make sure we go for the win."
Gary Megson on Bolton ending their seven-game winless streak on Tuesday night: "The players deserve a huge amount of credit for the way they have gone about things. But we have got to kick on now. We've got to come up with a result where no-one expects us to get a result. That's probably Wigan."
In the news: With Megson recently claiming that someone is out to get him and mischief being well and truly made at the Reebok Stadium, captain Kevin Davies revealed on Thursday that he addressed his team-mates in order to galvanise the dressing room ahead of their 3-3 draw with Manchester City. He said: "It wasn't desperate but I called a meeting with the boys and said 'we're the ones that have got ourselves in this position, we're not going to hide behind managers, we're not going to hide behind formations, we are the ones who are going to get us out of it, so let's have a bit of respect for each other.'"
Wigan team news: Mohamed Diame was removed due to a knee injury in the defeat to Liverpool and is sidelined, so Jason Koumas could well come into Martinez's midfield.
Bolton team news: Fabrice Muamba is suspended after picking up five yellow cards and Gavin McCann is also absent with what Gary Megson has described as a "quite serious" ankle injury. The unavailability of Joey O'Brien and Sean Davis further curtails Megson's options so youngster Chris Basham could start. Mustapha Riga and Danny Shittu remain sidelined.
Probable Wigan team (4-4-2): Kirkland, Melchiot, Bramble, Boyce, Figueroa, Scharner, Thomas, Koumas, N'Zogbia, Scotland, Rodallega.
Probable Bolton team (4-4-2): Jaaskelainen, Steinsson, Knight, Cahill, Robinson, Lee, Cohen, Basham, Taylor, Klasnic, Davies.
Soccernet prediction: With a potentially open game to be expected, this match could surprise and as such it is very hard to call. If Bolton take the game to Wigan, they could snatch it though.