Preview: Wigan Athletic v City
City look to consolidate their place in the top four this weekend with a trip to Wigan. With so many players having picked up knocks in the past couple of weeks, the options for Mark Hughes are unclear. The same squad who went to Villa could all be available, or injuries could take take their toll on Zabaleta, Toure, Lescott, Bridge, de Jong, Bellamy and Petrov.
Added to that, Carlos Tevez has only just returned from Argentina, though he was hardly overworked with Diego Maradona’s team selections giving him just the final four minutes of a possible two matches.
It’s a sign of the modern Premier League that Wigan will have more cause to worry about the freshness of their players. Hugo Rodallega (Columbia), Jason Scotland (Trinidad and Tobago), Hendry Thomas and Maynor Figueroa (both Honduras) have all had trips to South and Central America.
In that regard, it may come down to which side is the freshest. Micah Richards could return to City’s defence at either right-back or in the centre if either Zabaleta or Toure aren’t fit. There’s the prospect of a debut for Sylvinho if Bridge doesn’t make it.
In midfield, Ireland will be pushing for a recall as he will be fresher than most. De Jong could also be a key player in stopping the passing game that is crucial to the success of Martinez’s sides.
On current form, Bellamy is a must-pick if he’s fit. Adebayor should lead the attack, and hopefully put the disappointment of missing out on the World Cup Finals behind him. Wright-Phillips will presumably play on the right, though I’d be tempted to go with Tevez and crowd the Latics with a three man midfield (de Jong, Barry and Ireland).
Hughes seems more inclined to play Tevez alongside Adebayor. If Bellamy isn’t fit, it will be interesting to see what happens. Petrov could come in after scoring twice for Bulgaria, although a sore knee may rule him out altogether. Tevez or Ireland could also be played on the left, though this is normally Ireland’s least effective position.
Wigan’s form is anything but consistent, even at home. They got hammered by United, yet deservedly beat Chelsea in their last game at the DW. They then managed to lose to Hull. We, on the other hand, need to be consistent if we’re to challenge for the top four, and winning at potentially tricky places like Wigan is exactly the kind of thing Mark Hughes needs to achieve.
Hopefully, the depth of our squad will enable Hughes to field a decent side. We may never have won at Wigan in the Premier League, but that counts for little with the quality we have now. It should be an entertaining game against one of the more footballing sides in the Premier League.
Possible line-up: The best eleven who are fit!
Predicted score: 1-3 to City.