As you all should know by now its at this stage of the season that Wigan set into motion their ‘great escape’ from relegation. Like clockwork the Latics find themselves situated in the bottom five with 11 games remaining for the fourth season running and ultimately they will do enough to comfortably survive between now and May. Last week’s resounding victory at Reading lifted them out of the drop zone and exhibited exactly what they are capable when their concentration is brought into sharp focus. Arouna Kone’s brace emphasised his importance to the Latics quest for ultimate safety and took him to 10 goals for the season. If Roberto Martinez is going to avoid the drama of a late scrap for survival (‘wheres the fun in that?’ he must say) then maintaining a healthy supply line for Kone will be crucial. More importantly they will need to end a run of seven winless games at the DW Stadium if they are to remain a top-flight club.
As for Liverpool, well, everything seems to be going right for once despite this being dubbed a season of transition under Brendan Rodgers. In fact the Reds are just three points shy of local rivals Everton, who currently occupy sixth, and could close the gap with victory at Wigan. Rodgers knows European qualification would be an overachievement in his first season in the Anfield dugout but the performances of his side since the New Year suggest they more than warrant a top-six finish. The addition of Daniel Sturridge to the attack has had a marked effect with Liverpool scoring 15 times in the five league matches since his arrival and that could be the key to Liverpool picking up their first away win since beating QPR in late December.
Antolin Alcaraz could start for the first time in six-months after coming off the bench against Reading last week. On-loan winger Ryo Miyaichi is closing in on a return.
A thigh injury has placed Daniel Sturridge’s involvement in jeopardy but Martin Skrtel is back after a knee injury.
What the managers said…
“Our last two games should serve as a benchmark to what we’re looking forward to in the coming weeks. It’s important that we use our environment to our advantage. Two wins at home this season is a poor return, especially when you consider the performances we’ve seen at the DW Stadium. Now is the time to affect those small margins with the help of the fans, which could be the difference in complimenting a good performance with the right result. It’s been a difficult and frustrating season in terms of results, but the level of performances has been very good, better than last season in fact. In that aspect we’ve seen big improvements in this campaign, but I’ve certainly seen a different focus and concentration from the group in the last two games, which is something we need to continue with. Our aim is to now replicate the levels shown against Reading and Huddersfield, and keep pushing one another forward as a group.” Roberto Martinez has urged Wigan to make the DW Stadium a fortress (wiganlatics.co.uk)
“I want to push into that top six if we possibly can. I think we can do that, can we reach fifth and go on a run? That is not thinking this club should not be higher, it is just a realistic aim of where we are at for this season. That will be the idea in my time here, to keep showing that we can build and grow. It was never going to be a bolt of lightning in terms of the process but I’ve seen enough to give us great hope going forward. A lot of things are coming together for us, our mentality and idea of the game. That should help us kick on next season.” Brendan Rodgers wants Liverpool to make a big push for sixth (Liverpool Echo)
Pre-Match Statistic: Liverpool haven’t beaten Wigan at the DW Stadium in their last four visits.
Prediction: Wigan Athletic 1-3 Liverpool