BOLTON WANDERERS-WIGAN ATHLETIC PREVIEW – HANGING AROUND THE DARK SIDE

Yet another “must win” match for Wigan Athletic? If they lose to Bolton on Saturday are they doomed to go down? Would a draw be a good result? Wigan Athletic are hanging around the dark side, close to the abyss. But so are Bolton. Neither side wants to lose this one.

Bolton Wanderers lie in 18th position, with 20 points, four ahead of Wigan Athletic. They have won 2 out of 12 home matches this season. They have failed to score in 3 of their last 4 league matches. One could say this was an ideal time to play them at the Reebok Stadium. However, Bolton have not lost in their last 8 meetings with Wigan. Last time the teams played, at the DW Stadium in mid October, Bolton had lost 11 of their first 12 matches, but still managed to beat us 3-1. Last time we beat them at the Reebok was in 2008.

What lies in store on Saturday? Is it going to be a turning point for Wigan or another nail in their coffin? Which team can better manage the “fear factor” or at least scrape out a win? To be frank, given the current form of both teams this match could go either way.

Wigan have 16 points from 24 matches so far. In the past three seasons the team finishing in 17th place and surviving the drop was as follows – 2010-11 Wolves (with 40 points), 2009-2010 West Ham (35 points), 2008-2009, Hull City (35 points). If Latics are to reach even the lower 35 point figure they will need 19 points from the last 14 matches. This is an achievable target, providing they play close to their potential. Last season they got 20 points from their last 14 matches with the record of W5 D5 L4. Three of those losses were against Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea.

Would 35 points be enough providing Latics could reach that total? That would largely depend on how the other struggling teams were to fare over the coming months. The bottom five teams are currently within a five point range of each other. There is then a gap of another five points between 15th and 16th place. It is not unusual for a team well above the danger zone at this start of the season to go into freefall and finish in a relegation place. However, the probability is that 3 of today’s bottom 5 teams are going to be relegated. It is therefore critical that Latics get good results in their upcoming “6 pointers” against Bolton, Blackburn and Wolves. They have already shared the honours with QPR, winning one and losing one. Given this scenario it is no wonder that so many Latics supporters consider the Bolton game to be a “must win”. To lose would put Bolton 7 points ahead of them, pushing Wigan closer and closer to relegation.

What of Wigan’s lineup and tactics for this match? It appears that Franco Di Santo is fit again after getting injuries in his last two matches. Roberto Martinez seems to be pretty upbeat about Hugo Rodallaga coming good again now the transfer window is over. He is the only player with any kind of proven goalscoring record in the squad. I expect him to play but implore Martinez not to play him on the left wing where he is so ineffective. He needs to be in the centre. Many Latics followers, myself included, would love to see two central strikers playing together. Di Santo and Rodallega could make a fine combination. However, this would mark a paradigm shift in Martinez’ s thinking and is therefore unlikely. We can only live in hope.

As always let’s keep the faith! Latics are by no means dead and buried at this stage and can turn things around, as they did last season. Let’s go into the match with a positive lineup and try to win it!

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