Fulham v Wigan Athletic: Moment of truth for Boselli?

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Tomorrow Wigan Athletic face Martin Jol’s Fulham side at Craven Cottage. The tight stadium, adjoining the Thames, has proved a difficult venue for Latics in the past, with the only win coming in 2006-2007, a goal from Henri Camara proving sufficient for a 1-0 scoreline. Last year, in the middle of Latics’ storming late run, they looked a little stale at Craven Cottage, but went ahead through a cracking shot by Emmerson Boyce. The Cottagers were to fight back and a soft goal in the last five minutes from Philippe Senderos won them the match.

Fulham have since lost key players in Moussa Dembele and Clint Dempsey, who went to Tottenham for big money. Their midfield general and talisman, Danny Murphy, was released at 35 years of age. Blackburn’s gain was Fulham’s loss. In Murphy’s absence they have readjusted their tactical system, bringing in a handful of new signings, some more well known than others. Their high profile signing was Dmitar Berbatov, now 31 years old, who has a formidable record against Wigan with 8 goals in 11 appearances against them. Since their arrival in the Premier League he has tormented Latics as much as any other player. One recalls his precise cross leading to Hugo Rodallega’s headed goal at the DW Stadium in September. That day Rodallega himself did not celebrate his goal in front of his previous fans. However, he is going to be enthusiastic to play against his former club and do further damage tomorrow.

The absence of Arouna Kone on African Nations Cup duty is a major blow for Wigan. The big question is who will replace him. The moment of truth must surely come soon for Mauro Boselli. Limited to a single league start after showing excellent form — and several goals — in the first two league cup ties, his time is surely now. His success relies heavily on the ability of the wingbacks to provide him with the right ammunition. Eighteen-year-old Angelo Henriquez, bright off the bench against Bournemouth, should not be expected to lead the line and like any other young player from a different continent, will take some time to adapt. Another option is Callum McManaman as a second striker, and there is always the possibility of an extra midfielder in the shape of David Jones or Jordi Gomez, a more conservative approach.

Fulham’s success over the past few years has been largely based on their home form, which has been outstanding. However, this season has seen a few cracks develop in the Craven Cottage fortress. They have already lost four Premier League matches at home, including their last to Swansea, after only drawing previously with Southampton. If there is a time for Latics to get a good result at Fulham then surely it must be tomorrow.

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Wigan vs. Fulham: Battle of the strikers as Hugo returns

Wigan’s record Premier League goalscorer Hugo Rodallega returns to the DW Stadium this weekend with his new club, but most eyes will be on his illustrious strike partner, Dimitar Berbatov.

The Bulgarian notched his first two goals in a Fulham shirt in the 3-0 win over West Brom, while Hugo hit the post from three yards out, something he specializes in. The Colombian has already amassed more shots per minute than any other striker in the league — it is no wonder Mauro Boselli didn’t get any service playing between Hugo and Charles N’Zogbia. But the reception should be warm for a player who worked his socks off in that lone striker role, scored some very important goals, and developed a warm relationship with the Latics support in his years with the club.

Interest should not be fully reserved for Fulham’s strikeforce, however, as Roberto came out with a public promise of playing opportunities for Boselli yesterday. Franco Di Santo has been excellent with two brilliant finishes in four matches, really beginning to fulfill his huge potential; Arouna Koné is still adapting but has pedigree and looks a little sharper with his touch as the days go by.

Assuming Antolin Alcaraz is not yet ready to return to action, Roberto should be able to field the same XI as he did at Old Trafford. But he has options if he is looking to mix things up. Home games like this where we would expect to control possession should theoretically be ideal for Boselli, with crosses flying in from both sides. Ryo Miyaichi looks fast and skillful and offers something closer to what Victor Moses did. There is cover in midfield, though it is hard to imagine any interference there.

Aside from Swansea, whose style of play was instilled by Roberto long before Brendan Rodgers or Michael Laudrup came along, Martin Jol’s Fulham have become one of the more pleasant teams to watch. They’ve lost the excellent Moussa Dembele, playmaker-in-chief Danny Murphy and Clint Dempsey. But if fit, Bryan Ruiz is a very exciting player behind the front two of Rodallega and Berbatov. New left winger Alexander Kacaniklic looks lively and has already contributed goals and assits, while Damien Duff has had an effective start to the season on the right. Steve Sidwell has been waiting for regular football for years and now has it. He will provide steel in midfield, though he can play a bit too. And the defense is well established, with Haangeland and Hughes, and Schwarzer behind them always difficult to beat. They were the one team we didn’t outplay in the fantastic run-in last season.

So a tricky but intriguing encounter on the cards. The good news is that both Clint Dempsey and Andy Johnson have moved on and therefore cannot score against us anymore — for Fulham, anyway. The bad is that Berbatov has a very decent record against us, while Hugo has scored a few at the DW as well. Lets hope this is a day for Latics’s stikers to rise up and keep them in the shadows.