Blackburn Preview – Latics to rest key players

A trip to Ewood Park has been known to fill Wigan Athletic supporters with a sense of foreboding. Latics have only won there once and that was at the end of the 2011-12 season when they were miraculously staying up and Blackburn were being relegated from the Premier League. An Antolin Alcaraz header gave Latics a 1-0 win. The next best result was Paul Jewell’s side getting a 1-1 draw there in the 2005-06 season. The other seven confrontations went Blackburn’s way.

But this time around Latics fans will not worry too much about the result. Wigan are already assured of a playoff place and will want to rest their key players ahead of the home game against either Derby or QPR next Thursday or Friday. Blackburn will be hoping that Latics put out their second string, praying that they can get an avalanche of goals and that Brighton and Reading both lose. That far-fetched scenario would be enough for them to leapfrog into a playoff place.

Latics will certainly look at resting key players, but still have enough strength in depth to ensure a fair contest tomorrow. Rosler might well give Honduran left back Juan Carlos Garcia his league debut. Thomas Rogne is also likely to feature in the centre of defence. The big Swede Markus Holgersson still has not featured in the first team and has not played for the development squad for some time. If he is fit will he make his debut at right back?

Nicky Maynard is due to return at centre forward. Jack Collison will step into central midfield. James McClean, Josh McEachran and Nick Powell might reappear, despite not having even made the bench for the match at Birmingham.

The pressure if off Latics, but on Blackburn tomorrow. However, Lancashire derbies can be full-blooded affairs and strange things can happen. Rosler will want his players to stay clear of injuries and disciplinary sanctions, but nevertheless represent their club with pride.

The likelihood is a Blackburn victory, but Latics’ fringe players are a talented bunch who might surprise us tomorrow. It will depend on their willingness to slug it out with the opposition in the true tradition of a Lancashire derby.

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Garcia ready to step in for Latics

Juan Carlos Garcia (left) ready to step in for Latics.

When Juan Carlos Garcia was signed last summer it looked like he was going to be the natural successor for Maynor Figueroa.

Like ‘Figgy’ he was an experienced Honduran international, in his mid-twenties, who had come from Honduras’ top club – Olimpia of Tegucigalpa – with the ambition of being successful in England. He was to be another in the line of Honduran footballers at Wigan following in the steps of Wilson Palacios, Hendry Thomas, Figueroa and Roger Espinoza. Garcia got himself known on a world stage in February 2013 through a spectacular goal for his country in a World Cup qualifier against the USA, assisted by Figueroa.

Like Figueroa, Garcia is a left back who can also play in the centre of defence. The left back position has been problematic for Latics this season. Stephen Crainey played there at the beginning of the season, to be replaced by James Perch. That gave Latics more defensive solidity, but Perch was limited in attacking skills, playing on his ‘wrong side’. At times Owen Coyle would draft in Jean Beausejour at left back. The arrival of Uwe Rosler saw the Chilean being used more in that position, with Crainey rotated in as a wing back when Latics played with a line of three central defenders.

After six years at Blackpool, Crainey struggled to adapt to his new playing environment in the first half of the season. Being played at wing back relieved some of the defensive pressure on him and he started to grow in confidence.

Beausejour’s preferred position is wing back. Ironically when Latics have played with three central defenders it has been, more often than not, Crainey who has been played at left wing back. Apart from the occasional game on the left wing Beausejour has been played largely at left back, not his best position.

In the last two games the left hand side of Latics defence has looked vulnerable. At Burnley it was Crainey partnering Leon Barnett on the left, then it was Beausejour against Blackpool.

Rosler might well choose to revert to a 3-5-2 formation for the remaining two league games, bringing in Rob Kiernan as an extra centre back. However, if he opts to go for a flat back four he could do worse than put in Garcia at left back.

Figueroa made 148 appearances over five seasons for Latics and has been badly missed this season at left back. However, when he first arrived in January 2008 he had to wait months before making his debut as a substitute three months later. His first start was in the last match of the 2007-08 season facing Cristiano Ronaldo.

Garcia did not have to wait quite so long, making his debut in Latics’ 5-0 League Cup debacle at Manchester City in late September. Coyle played him in a wide position in left midfield. Since then he has had some injury problems, but has overcome them, making regular appearances for the development squad.

Will Garcia get his second chance before the season ends?

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Latinos ready for Brighton

Both Jean Beausejour and Roger Espinoza have had a busy week, but neither would complain if Owen Coyle put them in the lineup against Brighton on Saturday.

What are the chances?

Beausejour played for the first 81 minutes for Chile at Wembley on Friday, then came on as a substitute after only 8 minutes against Brazil in Toronto on Tuesday, completing the remainder of the match.

Beausejour was a key component of Chile’s fine 2-0 win over England. His expert close control in tight situations, together with his patient approach, helped Chile build dangerous moves down the right hand side of England’s defence.

He came early in Toronto because of an injury to midfield dynamo Marcelo Diaz. Brazil went 1-0 up after 10 minutes but Chile got one back when Eduardo Vargas scored a spectacular goal from his headed pass after 71 minutes

Chile had been far from overwhelmed against Brazil, but eventually went down 2-1 to an 80th minute goal from Robinho.

Chile are certainly seeking the right kind of opposition in preparation for the trip to Brazil in June.

Espinoza played for the first 64 minutes against Brazil in Miami, in front of a crowd of 71,000. When he went off Honduras were losing 2-0. They let in another three without him. Check out  this video clip to see how impressive Espinoza looked in that match. Bleacher Report rated him Honduras’ best performer.

Espinoza came on after 46 minutes in the 2-2 draw with Ecuador in Houston on Tuesday. Honduras were trailing 1-0 at half time, but got to 2-1 ahead until Ecuador equalized in the 89th minute. Both teams had been down to 10 men, Wilson Palacios having been sent off after 84 minutes.

Honduras used a total of 12 substitutes in those two matches, in an attempt to give a wide range of players an opportunity to show what they could do against quality opposition. That Espinoza played 109 minutes in the two games is therefore not a reflection upon his performance.

Brazil are going to be the team to beat in June and Honduras needed to play strong opposition outside their usual opponents in CONCACAF. Ecuador are no push-overs either, having finished fourth in the highly competitive South American qualifying competition.

Despite playing well against world class opposition for their countries neither Beausejour nor Espinoza is likely to make the starting lineup against Brighton.

Beausejour missed recent Latics matches through a foot injury, but currently has to compete with James McClean and Callum McManaman for a place on the left flank.

Despite a Man of the Match performance in Kazan, Espinoza was not retained in the starting lineup at Yeovil. In fact he was brought off the bench with five minutes to go. Coyle is blessed with a strong squad of holding midfield players and has rotated them well, with the exception of Espinoza who he has repeatedly snubbed.

In the Brazil match Espinoza played wide in left midfield, not his best position, but he nevertheless looked very involved, winning the ball and putting in some excellent passes.

Coyle has lined up with both Jordi Gomez and James McArthur in wide midfield positions, with little success. He brought Espinoza off the bench in the Charlton match to play wide on the left and the Honduran did not do badly.

Juan Carlos Garcia was also in the Honduras squad for both matches and came on as a substitute after 81 minutes against Brazil. Coyle still has not started him at left back, although he did play in left midfield in the League Cup loss to Manchester City. It would be a big surprise if he started on Saturday.

There is good news for Latics in that the excellent Ivan Ramis is ready to compete for a place, after 10 months out through injury. It will interesting to see if Coyle is willing to put Ramis in the rotation with Leon Barnett, Thomas Rogne and Ryan Shotton for the centre back positions.

At the time of his injury at Fulham in January, Ramis was looking a quality Premier League defender –  a good reader of the game with a strong tackle. Ramis will have to adjust to the high ball game played by so many teams in the Championship, but at 6’2” he is quite capable in the air.

Passing the ball out of defence is something Ramis is good at and the other centre backs in the squad should take note. Too often they have taken the easy option of the long ball or the pass back to the goalkeeper, the end result more often than not being Latics losing possession.

It looks like Will Keane will be shortly be signed on loan.  Although Keane’s signing would look like  a positive move we will have to wait and see if Dave Whelan is going to allow Coyle to make a big money purchase of an experienced striker with a proven record of success.

With a busy month coming up it is going to be interesting to see how Coyle rotates his squad.

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