The dream continued to come true on Sunday as Latics grafted out a win that took them into the FA Cup semi-finals. Apart from a few glimpses in the first half we did not see the kind of flowing football that won them the FA Cup in May. But we did witness once again the “character” that this Latics team now displays under Uwe Rosler. It might not have been as pleasing on the eye as what we saw in May, but in many ways this win was even more impressive. Only one English team- Chelsea- had beaten Manchester City this season at the Etihad Stadium prior to Wigan’s victory. City had hit six against Arsenal and Tottenham and seven against Norwich.
It is a reflection upon the changes that have occurred since the historic May victory that only four players from that Wembley final made the starting lineup on Sunday. There may be even less in the team that meets Sheffield Wednesday tomorrow.
If any match this season presents a potential banana skin it is this one. It would be all too easy for Latics to slip up against the Yorkshire club after the elation of the quarter final win. Latics are clear favourites to win this match after six successive victories and a 3-0 win at Hillsborough a month ago. However, the performance at City will have taken its physical toll and this match is the second of three in a period of six days.
Rosler will certainly have to rotate his squad for this match. Chris McCann went off injured at half time on Sunday, so will be doubtful. Rosler has already stated that Ivan Ramis is not yet fit enough for two games a week. Leon Barnett, who has played more games than anyone this season, was rested from the starting lineup on Saturday but had to come on for McCann after half time. Rosler will also be tempted to rest Emmerson Boyce, who was superb on Sunday.
Nicky Maynard and Martyn Waghorn will almost certainly return to the starting lineup. Callum McManaman and James McClean shared game time on Sunday and may well do so again, the latter being the more likely starter. If Rosler goes for a flat back four then Ryan Tunnicliffe might well start in holding midfield. The big Swede Marcus Holgersson might well make his debut, teaming up with Barnett in the centre of defence. However, he can also play right back if Rosler decides to rest James Perch. Jean Beausejour will return at left back, providing he is fit. Rosler is fortunate to be able to choose from probably the two best goalkeepers in the division, in Ali Al-Habsi and Scott Carson.
Dave Whelan was quoted this week as saying “I’ve loved that FA Cup and the whole town has but this year you’ve got a feeling the league is more important. You get people asking ‘what do you want to do?’ Well there’s only one thing – promotion back to the Premier League.”
Rosler will be therefore be keen to bring his players back down to the ground following the elation of their amazing performance at the Etihad. They will have to knuckle down and fight for the fifty-fifty balls against a Wednesday team currently sitting in 16th place.
Latics fans will be hoping they don’t slip up on that banana skin tomorrow.