I have often thought that the League Cup is a waste of time. Shadow teams playing each other in empty stadia. What purpose does it really serve? However, in a disappointing season for Wigan Athletic up to this point it has been the League Cup matches that have been the highlight. We have seen two successive 4-1 away wins where the finishing has been lethal, an uncommon experience for Latics fans. Moreover the ties have also shown that the club has considerable strength in depth, with ‘fringe’ players putting in excellent performances.
Will the finishing in the game against Bradford City tonight once again be of that order? Leading the charge, with three goals already in the competition, will be the excellent Mauro Boselli. Boselli is well on the way to proving his doubters wrong. It has been all too easy for the cynics to knock him. All kinds of misleading statistics have been thrown his way. Recently I even heard a football commentator on television say that Boselli had not scored a Premier League goal in three years at Wigan. It is not unusual for such people to put Wigan Athletic down, with their condescending attitudes towards the club. However, this recent comment was palpably unfair. Boselli started only five times in the first part of the 2010-2011 season before going off to Genoa and Estudiantes on loan. He has not started for Wigan in the Premier League since returning in July.
At Estudiantes, prior to joining Wigan, Boselli had scored 22 goals in 29 league starts in 2009-10 and 10 in 23 league starts in 2008-09. Impressive stats when playing for a relatively small club in a league with tight defences. He was the leading goalscorer in whole of the Copa Libertadores competition in 2008-09, helping his team lift the trophy with the match winner in the final against Cruzeiro. Since his return to Wigan he has been carefully nurtured by Roberto Martinez, being limited to three brief substitute appearances in the Premier League. However, the snippets we have seen of Boselli’s finishing for Latics League Cup and Under 21 teams have shown us how he scored so many goals in tough and competitive competitions in South America. We may well see that tonight.
Prior to cup ties Roberto Martinez typically reiterates that they are an opportunity for the fringe players to break into the first choice lineup. However, he was careful to provide a backbone of experienced first choice players in defence for the wins at Forest and West Ham. Tonight he is likely to play both Roman Golobart and Adrian Lopez in the back three. They come from the opposite sides of Spain and have contrasting styles.
Roman Golobart – a Catalan from Barcelona in the east of Spain – is a big, powerful central defender, nevertheless with good passing ability. Golobart joined the club from Espanyol as a 17 year old in August 2009. Last season he had a successful loan spell at Inverness, being voted fans’ player of the year. Playing under the influence of manager Terry Butcher, ex-England centre half, will surely have helped his game. Still only 20 he is an excellent prospect.
Adrian Lopez –from the province of Coruña in Galicia, north west Spain – signed for Wigan in December 2010 from local team Deportivo La Coruña, as a free agent after a heated dispute over his contractual situation. In the previous three years he had played 26 matches for Deportivo, scoring one goal. In Spain he was known under his nickname ‘Piscu’ to distinguish him from the other Adrian Lopez ,a forward who plays for Atletico Madrid. Now 25 years old, Piscu has had 6 starts since joining Wigan. According to the Wigan Athletic club website, Lopez “ brings cultured development to Latics’ back line”. Clearly a different type of player to the more muscular Golobart. Lopez has struggled with the physicality of the Premier League, but Martinez retains confidence in the player.
Other likely starters for the match are Callum McManaman, Ronnie Stam, Fraser Fyvie, David Jones and Jordi Gomez. There are doubts over the fitness of Ryo Miyaichi. Albert Crusat remains out injured. Martinez may once again opt to put in some of his first choice players, although maybe fewer than in the previous League Cup games with the away match at Tottenham coming up at the weekend.
Although tonight’s match is at the DW Stadium it might seem more like a home game for Bradford City, who have sold all of their 5,000 ticket allocation. Bradford are currently in 5th place in League Two, but have the highest average attendance in the division at just below 10,000.
Prediction: at least one goal from Mauro Boselli and a win for Wigan Athletic.