This topsy turvy season for Wigan Athletic is drawing to a close. They are three points above the relegation zone and their last games are against the bottom two clubs. A good position to be in, compared with a couple of months ago when they were the bookmakers’ favourites for going down. Over the past weeks several demons have been exorcised. Latics had not gained even a point against Manchester United in six years of trying, but on April 28th they managed to break the spell and beat the champions. Who would have guessed that they would also go on to win at Arsenal and Liverpool? However, further demons remain. Since joining the Premier League in 2005 Latics have gained only one solitary point at Blackburn, that being in 2005-2006. It has been consecutive losses ever since.
Latics come into this game on a high after a superb 4-0 victory over high flying Newcastle. Blackburn have lost 6 out of their last 7. Their display at Tottenham last week suggested they had thrown in the towel. Rarely will one ever see a team in grave danger of relegation play with such little passion. The 2-0 scoreline was flattering. Tottenham were poor but should have scored a hatful. Blackburn had zero shots on goal.
So which Blackburn will we see on Monday night? Will it be their final fling, with a gigantic effort to stave off relegation? Or have they already accepted their fate? Given the local pride at stake I would expect the former and expect them to throw everything they can into the game. Then again, which Wigan Athletic will we see? Will it be the one which has surpassed all expectations with great results against top clubs, or will it be that stale team that lost recently at Fulham?
On the playing front Latics have a clean bill of health, with only Ronnie Stam doubtful. A big factor in their recent run has been having a settled team, being free from injuries and suspensions. One expects the same starting lineup that faced Newcastle. Being Blackburn one can expect an aerial barrage, although Steve Kean’s team try to play a better brand of football than the horrible stuff that typified Sam Allardyce’s sides. Indeed they have flair players in the Canadian Junior Hoilett and Argentinian Mauro Formica. Added to that is the goalscoring expertise of Yakubu and the tenacity and experience of Blackburn-born David Dunn in midfield. This Blackburn side can play but have been largely in a self-destruct mode over the past couple of months.
What better time to exorcise another demon? Latics are playing well, Blackburn badly.The form book suggests a win for Wigan. After almost 7 years of not winning at Blackburn the time has come. Keep the faith, you believers.