Manchester City v Wigan, Premier League, March 29, 2010
Manchester Cityâ€™s bid for fourth place received a major setback in midweek with their first home defeat of the season to Everton and they will be anxious to get back on track as quickly as possible when Wigan arrive at Eastlands.
Champions League football is the aim at City this season but Wednesday’s loss means they no longer have the initiative in the race for fourth and sit five points behind Tottenham with eight games remaining. The result is far from fatal given City had taken seven from nine points away from home in the build up to the Everton game, including a 4-2 win over Chelsea, but the collateral damage has been severe.
In particular, City’s men in suits had a bad week last week. Italian crooner Roberto Mancini was charged with improper conduct following an embarrassingly childish spat with Toffee boss David Moyes on the sidelines. And problems also spilled out in the director’s box as City chief executive received more unwanted attention when Garry Cook was reported to have been disruptive alongside his Everton counterparts.
It all adds up to a series of negative headlines for City, who needs their season to kick into gear now if they are to save face from the Christmas sacking of Mark Hughes.
City have few new injury concerns but still a handful of absences. Joleon Lescott will miss the match after picking up a hamstring problem, while Javier Garrido is set to continue to deputise for Wayne Bridge, while Michael Johnson and Martin Petrov are both still sidelined. Elsewhere, Stephen Ireland is touch-and-go for inclusion after the midfielder suffered a shin injury in the 2-0 loss to Everton.
In more positive news, Emmanuel Adebayor returns having completed a four-match ban and is available to return to City’s attack. The Togolese striker could line up alongside firebrand Craig Bellamy – arguably City’s player of the season – with the Welshmen capable of hurting the Latics backline after notching eight goals and seven assists this campaign. And a three-pronged attack could be filled out by the dynamic Carlos Tevez, who has also sparkled this term with 18 goals in his past 20 games in all competitions.
Looking around the rest of City’s likely starting eleven, the excellent Adam Johnson should get another chance to shine in the midfield alongside work-horses Gareth Barry and Nigel de Jong, while Kolo Toure will partner Vincent Kompany in the centre of defence.
As for Wigan, Roberto Martinez’s side continue to hover precariously above the relegation zone, but moved a step closer to survival courtesy of Hugo Rodallega’s injury-time winner against fellow strugglers Burnley last time out. With a four point buffer on the relegation dogfight, the Latics will be hoping to extend their survival ambitions against City – a side whom they have a hoodoo over having lost just once in nine Premier League clashes.
Wigan’s default setting away from home is to line up in a 4-5-1 formation, meaning Marcelo Moreno is likely to be dropped to the bench by Martinez, who will look to wrestle control of midfield through the imposing pair of Mohamed Diame and Hendry Thomas.
Yet, Martinez may have to shuffle his troops further due to a couple of important absentees. Charles N’Zogbia is unlikely to recover from the hip problem that forced him to miss the 1-0 victory over Burnley, while Emmerson Boyce is also expected to miss out due to back and groin problems.
Away from the DW Stadium, Wigan have been a consistent soft touch this season, picking up just three wins, two draws and ten defeats on the road. Even worse is their propensity to concede goal on their away trips, with Wigan having conceded a league leading 38 goals on their travels. That miserable away form is without doubt the main reason for the Latics relegation position right now, and there is little to suggest that that form will improve at Eastlands.
Accordingly, expect City to get back on the winning trail under the Monday night lights as the race for fourth spot intensifies once again.
101gg predicts: Manchester City 3 – Wigan 1 (9.66)