Injury-hit Wigan Athletic face newly promoted Reading at the DW Stadium this afternoon. Wigan are currently in 16th place with 11 points from 12 games. Although they have won only one league game all season – last week at home to Everton – Reading are in 17th place, with just two points less than Wigan. A win for the visitors would allow Reading to leapfrog over Wigan, plunging Latics into the relegation zone. The phrase “must-win game” tends to be overstated in the media, but in this case it comes pretty close to describing the importance of three points to Wigan Athletic.
Ben Watson’s broken leg must have impacted on Wigan’s performance and morale last week at Liverpool. It was so unfortunate after he had waited so long for his chance to get back into the team and had regained his form. James McArthur remains injured, so David Jones will partner James McCarthy in the centre of midfield. The injury to Gary Caldwell is a blow since it is not only his playing ability that will be missed, but his organizational skills in the centre of the back three. The most obvious option is to move Emmerson Boyce across to the central three and bring in the attacking Ronnie Stam. However, reports in the media have suggested Martinez might change the shape, which would likely mean playing with a conventional back four. This would allow him to bring in a winger, such as Ryo Miyaichi – if fit. There is some doubt over the fitness of Franco Di Santo. If he does not play the obvious replacement would be Mauro Boselli, but Jordi Gomez might jump ahead of him in the pecking order.
In contrast, Reading have better news regarding injuries, with forward Jimmy Kebe fit again after missing the Everton game. Old Wigan favourite, Jason Roberts, now 34, will probably start for the visitors. Reading’s win last week will certainly boost them although rumours regarding manager Brian McDermott’s position are not going to help. A failure to get a result at Wigan might well push him closer to the edge. Reading play an energetic, physical type of football and Wigan can expect the crosses to be teeming in. Ex-Watford midfield player, Jobi McAnuff, made 11 assists last season when Reading won the Championship and he has already made 4 more assists this season. Their leading goalscorer is Adam Le Fondre with 3 goals.
Critics would say that there has been a need for a shake up in the Latics lineup for some weeks. Martinez has kept stubborn faith in his first choice players, many of whom have disappointed up to this point. This time he is going to be forced into making changes because of injuries. Too many times in key relegation tussles in the past Wigan have gone into the match with a cautious team selection. Let’s hope Martinez puts on a positive lineup from the start in this match.
Reading have not won an away game this season, drawing 2 out of their 5. Wigan have won 1 out of 6 games at home. The logical prediction would therefore be a draw. However, football does not always work like that and it could be that a soft goal, penalty decision or red card could make the difference in this encounter. Wigan are due for a little bit of luck – maybe it will come today?