Blackpool could be facing D-Day when they host bottom-placed Wigan Athletic in a relegation scrap at Bloomfield Road on Saturday.The Seasiders have so far led a charmed life in the English Premier League and managed to stay afloat despite all expectations to the contrary, but there is no longer any denying just how dire their season has become.
With six games to go, 17th-placed Blackpool are one point off the relegation zone and two points from Wigan.
Moreover, the Tangerines are in the worst form of any team in the top-flight, taking just one point from their past five matches and losing 12 of 15 in 2011.
Blackpool boss Ian Holloway has publicly stated that he believes 39 points – six more – will keep the minnow side in the Premier League.
If his troops are to keep their necks above the crowded relegation scrap, where four points separates the bottom six teams, they simply must defeat Wigan.
But injuries are biting at the wrong time for Blackpool. David Carney’s season is over after the Australia international relented to shoulder surgery, while midfielder David Vaughan is in doubt with a hip injury.
Vaughan missed Blackpool’s 3-1 loss to Arsenal on Sunday, a defeat that highlighted the main flaws in the Seasiders’ game – they are too slow at the back and haemorrhage goals; a league-worst 66 to be precise.
Wigan, Newcastle United, Stoke City and Bolton Wanderers all have to visit Bloomfield Road before the season is out, a factor alone that should be enough to secure Blackpool’s survival.
But they are the only club in the top-flight to take more points on their travels than at home, where they struggle and have yet to maintain a clean sheet.
All of that bodes well for Wigan, who can leap out of the drop zone and condemn Blackpool to its borders with victory, but the Latics have eked out just two goals in their past five games and could struggle to score.
That is where Wigan midfielder Tom Cleverley could be the spark manager Roberto Martinez needs.
The on-loan Manchester United starlet may not have the pace to expose Blackpool’s back four but works hard and has an eye for goal.
For Blackpool, striker DJ Campbell will be lurking hungrily near the goalmouth after failing to find the net against Arsenal – his first game back from a three-game suspension.