Relegation threatened Wigan welcome Top Four hopefuls to the DW Stadium

Wigan Athletic v Aston Villa, Premier League, January 9, 2010

Wigan Athletic 9/4; Draw 12/5; Aston Villa 7/5

Football fans are used to ups and downs in football, but the roller coaster ride that Wigan Athletic fans have had to experience this season has taken them through more peaks and troughs than most. Climbing high with their assertive 2-0 win at Villa Park on the opening day of the season, they surely peaked with their 3-1 victory over title challengers Chelsea. Since then, they have come rushing down with a 4-0 reverse at beleaguered Portsmouth, hit an unenviable trough in the infamous 9-1 mauling at the hands of Tottenham and most recently almost come off the rails in a 5-0 defeat at Old Trafford. (It is 7/1 for there to be more than 4.5 goals)

Despite successfully progressing into the 4th round of the FA Cup last week, confidence is still fragile at the DW Stadium. They come into this game against top four hopefuls Aston Villa winless in 5 Premier League outings and hovering perilously above the relegation places. (Wigan are 5/1 to be relegated)

Goal scoring has been a real hindrance to the Latics success this season. Jason Scotland has perhaps been Martinez’s biggest disappointment. Having scored prolifically in the Championship, he was expected to make a smooth transition to goal-scoring exploits in the top tier. This has not materialised. He has failed to score at all in 20 appearances this season. (Scotland is 7/1 to score first) They are fortunate then to the more successful Hugo Rodallega. He has managed to amass respectable tally of 7 league goals, in spite of often being utilised as a lone striker. (Rodallega is 15/8 to score anytime)

For all their woes defending on the road, Wigan’s defence have actually performed much better at home. Despite being shielded by the erratic Titus Bramble and inconsistent Emerson Boyce, injury-prone Chris Kirkland has only conceded 13 goals at the DW stadium. (Wigan are 30/100 not to keep a clean sheet). This may also be the final game for Maynor Figueroa who is hotly tipped to follow former boss Steve Bruce to the Stadium of Light. Never one to enjoy a relegation fight, Charles N’Zogbia could also depart. His on-occasion impressive performances should secure a move to a premiership rival clear of the bottom three. (N’Zogbia is 9/1 to score first)

The absence of Mohamed Diame (knee Ligaments) aside, Roberto Martinez has a full fit squad to choose from and will be looking to build on any confidence gained from the recent progression to the 4th round of the FA Cup.

Martin O’Neill should also have a fully fit squad to choose from and a well rested one as well. Anticipating a League Cup Semi Final in midweek, Villa rested seven first team players last weekend meaning that all should be raring to go in this crucial encounter. They may have won at Old Trafford and Anfield already this season but it will be the manner of their crushing back-to-back festive defeats to Arsenal and Liverpool, which will sit firmly in the memory of all associated with the club.

One thing that these defeats made starkly clear was that though they possess a plethora of quality players who are prepared to graft, they severely lack a ‘world-class’ player who can make the difference at the very highest level. Within 48 hours over the Christmas period, 28 minutes of Fabregas magic and a sublime Fernando Torres finish decided games to which Villa had no response. (Villa are 9/2 to finish in the top four)

If anyone in a Villa shirt is likely to attain this status then it is James Milner. Revelling in his new central midfield role, he has an eye for a pass and is capable scoring spectacular goals from distance. (Milner is 7/2 to score anytime)

O’Neill is likely to stick with his attack-minded 4-4-2 formation employed effectively home and away this season. This is based heavily on his trust he has in his miserly defence. The foursome of Young, Dunne, Cuellar and Warnock have impressed as a unit and can soak up pressure and allow Villa to play on the counter attack. (Villa are 11/5 to keep a clean sheet) John Carew is likely to get the nod over Emile Heskey as Gabriel Agbonlahor and Ashley Young look to utilise their pace to hurt Wigan in-behind. (Agbonlahor is 40/1 to score a hat trick)

This match is hugely important for both sides. Wigan must address their slide towards the bottom three and Villa need to prove their top four credentials. Wigan have a habit of knowing when they are inferior side and making sure that the score line reflects it. As the home side, Wigan will look to attack and with Aston Villa’s superior players and ability to play on the counter attack this will suit Villa perfectly.

101predicts: Wigan Athletic 0 – Aston Villa 2 (12/1)

Wigan Athletic 9/4; Draw 12/5; Aston Villa 7/5

Full match odds here.