Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Match Preview: Wigan vs Liverpool

By: Gareth Freeman

I for one am glad it’s not another Mersey derby! Both of them were disappointing games in terms of the score and now there is another replay with Everton coming up. Oh well, the test in front of Rafa this time is a trip to the JJB Stadium to face the high-flying Wigan Athletic but this could be a great opportunity for the Reds to get back to winning ways.

In the current transfer window Wigan have lost Wilson Palacios and Emile Heskey. It is the curse of the ‘small’ club who does well too lose their better players and these two were arguably Wigan’s stand out players. The loss of Heskey in particular will hurt Wigan. Liverpool fans will remember him well from his time at Anfield and the big striker was always capable of holding up the ball – something that Wigan used him for too great effect.

The Latics have also lost their last two games so they’re not on the hot-streak they were a few weeks ago. On the other hand they have only been beaten three times at home this season and it is still not an easy task travelling to Wigan, despite the loss of Heskey.

A couple of faces may have left the JJB but they’ve brought a few faces in themselves. Boss Steve Bruce has brought in midfielder Ben Watson from Championship side Crystal Palace and Colombian striker Hugo Rodallega. I have to confess I don’t know much about these two players. Watson arrives with a big reputation from Palace but the step-up to the Premier League is not easy and it may take him time to adjust.

Antonio Valencia, Lee Catermole and Amr Zaki are all dangerous players amongst the Wigan line up. They’ve been putting in some decent performances all season and are a big reason why Wigan are doing so well in the league. Catermole is a good battling midfielder and will be able to compete with the Liverpool midfield while Valencia offers pace and skill, both players will probably move on to bigger clubs eventually in their careers.

I’ve outlined the threat of the opponent but if Liverpool perform to the level we all know they can Wigan shouldn’t really pose a massive obstacle. I for one wouldn’t back Wigan to get anything out of this tie with my football betting but Liverpool will need to be on form to win this one. With all the troubles at Anfield lately a win for Liverpool would go a long way to restoring the fans’ faith in a title bid. The only worry from the Liverpool perspective could be Rafa putting out a weakened side with Chelsea coming up on Sunday. However, I would expect Gerrard and Torres to play at least an hour and that should be enough to get past Wigan.

I’m going to offer a few football betting picks to finish off with. I think Arsenal will do enough to beat Everton at Goodison Park on Wednesday night, and I would also go for Manchester City to beat Newcastle at Eastlands and West Ham United to beat Hull City at Upton Park. I’ve already said I’d back Liverpool away at Wigan, while you would think (unfortunately) that Chelsea will easily see off struggling Middlesbrough at Stamford Bridge.