How big of a distraction will Wigan’s FA Cup run be to their bid for Premier League survival? The Latics reached the semi final with a stunning victory at Everton last week but fell back into the bottom three as a consequence of the positive results gained by the teams around them. With a month until their Wembley date with Millwall there is a big chance for Roberto Martinez to guide is side to safety with time to spare and bypass a final day usually fraught with nerves. To do that they must improve on the Premier League’s worst home record. 10 points from 14 games is poor by anyones standards and with the DW Stadium hosting Newcastle this week and Norwich in a fortnight the opportunity is there to start putting it right. After all its at this point in the season that Wigan come alive!
Alan Pardew’s side head to the North West with a major score to settle after they were trounced 4-0 by Martinez’s men last term. The Magpies were in the midst of a Champions League chase when they last visited the DW and ultimately ended up with a spot in the Europa League. A late, late victory over Anzhi Makhachkala on Thursday took them into the last eight of the competition and epitomised their recent upturn in form. Four wins from the last six in the league has given Newcastle reason to look up rather than down and Papiss Cisse’s injury time winner at home to Stoke last week put them nine points above the relegation zone. With the top-half now within their sights Pardew will be pushing his troops to right the wrongs of last season’s defeat at Wigan.
Callum McManaman (ankle) is a doubt for Wigan, while Ryo Miyaichi looks set to miss the rest of the season after damaging his ankle ligaments against Everton in the FA Cup last week.
Newcastle could travel without stand-in captain Yohan Cabaye after he tweaked his groin in the Europa League win against Anzhi on Thursday. Hatem Ben Arfa won’t play again this season as he awaits hamstring surgery but Shola Ameobi is fit.
What the managers said…
“Year after year that fight becomes harder because teams are more prepared and stronger to cope with the demands in that final push. I do see it as the strongest fight out of the last four I’ve been involved in. There is a very tight group in the middle of the table and until you get the points you need it is a difficult position to be in. Clearly 40 points will give you safety but from that point down you are relying on very small margins like goal difference. It is impossible to tell now because the games left are between teams involved in the bottom eight and they will have a massive bearing on the final points tally needed.” Roberto Martinez hinted Wigan may have to rely on goal difference if they want to stay up (The Sun)
“The question was asked to me yesterday, and of course I think we can win it. But we can’t get carried away. I do honestly believe that we have put one of the best teams out of this competition. If you ask me from the side of the pitch technically where do I pitch them, I would pitch them as a top-five team in the Premier League. They caused us a lot of problems. They have outstanding individual players in every area, really. We have beaten them, albeit with a slight bit of good fortune in this tie, so we can go on and win it. The one thing we do know is that the home tie here, whoever gets us is going to be in for another electric night. The fans played their part tonight, they really did.” Alan Pardew is adamant Newcastle can go all the way in the Europa League (Evening Chronicle)
Pre-Match Statistic: Wigan have never suffered a home defeat at the hands of Newcastle in the Premier League, winning five of their six meetings
Prediction: Wigan Athletic 1-2 Newcastle United