Wigan Athletic travel to Anfield this afternoon to face a Liverpool team in transition. The statistics tell us that Liverpool have won only 3 of their last 15 matches at home in 2012, a far cry from the days when Anfield was a fortress where teams feared to go. Latics 2-1 win there in April was one of their most notable performances, catalytic in helping maintain their Premier League status. Moreover Wigan have not lost to the Reds in their last five meetings.
The optimistic Liverpool supporter would rightly say that the club comes into this fixture on an unbeaten run of 6 league games, including a 1-1 draw at Chelsea last week. Under Brendan Rodgers, Liverpool are playing better football and have some exciting young talent coming through. The controversial Luis Suarez has been playing really well, scoring 8 league goals so far. Liverpool are clearly on the ascendancy and this is a game they dearly want to win.
Much has been said in the press this week of the confrontation between the two young managers – Rodgers and Martinez – both being lauded for their teams’ style of football. The cynic might say that Rodgers takes undue credit from his success as manager of Swansea, following unimpressive stats in his previous posts at Reading and Watford, where his teams were not renowned for playing good football. Martinez supporters would suggest that it was he, more than Rodgers, who recrafted the brand of football during his era at the Welsh club.
Rodgers still has a lot to do to prove himself on Merseyside, but his insistence on Liverpool playing quality football is to be commended. He has also had the courage to throw a handful of young players in at the deep end. Liverpool still retain players of proven quality to complement their youthful component. Steven Gerrard may be past his best but still has a lot to offer. They might well come into this match with a backline of three central defenders – Skrtel, Agger and Carragher – a rugged and experienced barrier to penetrate.
Wigan Athletic’s season so far has been disappointing, but these days one never knows what they will do next. When they first got into the Premier League a confrontation with Liverpool was one to be feared. Since then Liverpool’s strength has waned and Wigan have shown themselves capable of beating any one of those big clubs on their day. Wigan will go into the match anxious not to concede an early goal. So far this season they have not been able to get a result in a match where they have conceded the first goal.
Latics still have Alcaraz , McArthur and Crusat ruled out by injury. However, Ryo Miyaichi might be fit enough to take a place on the bench. It remains to be seen whether Shaun Maloney will make it after a recent injury. Jordi Gomez would be the most likely replacement. Ben Watson is likely to continue in midfield following his much improved performance against West Bromwich last weekend. Other than the doubt about Maloney the starting lineup is likely to remain unchanged from last week.
With fair refereeing and a little bit of luck Wigan Athletic can get a good result today. They need to avoid giving away any soft goals – particularly penalties – and Gary Caldwell and his defensive unit need to neutralize the threat of Luis Suarez. It seems like Latics play best when Caldwell is at his best. Let’s hope that today is one of his better days.