Wigan v Bolton, Premier League, December 21, 2009
If ever the football cliche “defenses on top” ought to be left out a match preview, Wigan’s match with Bolton deserves that award.
Monday night football returns to England’s top flight this week as two of the worst defensive records in the division go head to head. Statistically, Wigan have the top flight’s worst backline, and their pitiful record of having conceded 38 goals already this campaign is only seven fewer than they let in during the whole of last season. The defensive mettle instilled by former boss Steve Bruce has vanished under new boss Roberto Martinez. (Wigan are 2/1 to keep a clean sheet.)
Yet, Bolton are unable to laugh at their hosts woeful against column, as they also have nothing to smile about when it comes to their defensive record this term. The Trotters carry the unenviable badge of being the only team left in the Premier League who have yet to claim a clean sheet, having shipped 33 goals already this season too. (Bolton are 100/30 to keep a clean sheet.)
While their defenses maybe leaky though (21/20 to be over 2.5 goals), both teams can counter by pointing to the goalscoring exploits of the members of their respective rearguards.
Probably a one-hit wonder, all eyes will be fixed on the Latic’s left-back Maynor Figueroa after the Honduran’s unforgettable screamer hit from inside his own half last weekend at Stoke. The World Cup-bound defender may only be wearing the blue and white of Wigan for a couple of weeks more as reports have since linked Figueroa with moves to Spurs and Sunderland.
Bolton, on the other hand, will be doing all they can to hold onto their prized-possession at the back, with England international Gary Cahill experiencing a fantastic season for Gary Megson. Cahill has already chalked up five goals this season, making the centre-back Wanderers’ joint-top scorer in all competitions.
Wigan have to juggle their troops after midfielder Mohamed Diame has ruled out after being forced off against Liverpool with a knee injury. Jason Scotland, who replaced Diame at Anfield, is almost certain to return to the starting line-up as manager Roberto Martinez reverts to playing two in attack. Hugo Rodallega, who has lead his tea to victories in every game he has scored in this season, will lead the home attack.
Similar tactical problems face the visitors as Bolton midfielder Fabrice Muamba is suspended forÂ the game after collecting his fifth booking. Chris Basham should slot into the centre of the Trotters midfielder, alongside highly-underrated Israeli Tamir Cohen, while Matty Taylor and Chung-Yong Lee will look to cause damage from the wide areas.
As usual for Bolton, much of their play will be aimed at knocking high balls into their front-men Kevin Davies and Ivan Klasnic. This could prove to be the decisive tactical battle of the match, with Emmerson Boyce and Titus Bramble required to stay fully switched on throughout, what is a likely to be, a freezing cold night.
101predicts: Wigan 1 – Bolton 2 (12/1)