Love thy neighbour: Wigan v Bolton preview

Al Habsi portrait

Omani shot-stopper and former Bolton ‘mon’ Ali Al-Habsi will face his previous employers for the first time

Welcome back, Latic fanatics, to the weekly grind of domestic football. I sincerely hope you’ve had a good two weeks’ recuperation because you’re gonna need all your energy for this weekend’s absolutely massive north west derby.

No, I’m not talking about that Liverpool-Man United TV programme thingy Sky seem to be promoting incessantly, because an even bigger Lancashire rivalry is back for another instalment of biting, spitting and general loutish behaviour, at least if historical encounters are anything to go by. Not that I would condone such actions, of course. Well, at least not when the referee’s looking.

In terms of recent meetings between Latics and the Trotters, things have been fairly even:

Wigan v Bolton in the 2010-11 Season

Wigan and Bolton will probably be sick of the sight of each other after a whopping four meetings last season, despite the luxury(?) of an eight-month break. Though a similar outcome this weekend would not be hugely surprising,¬† a Latics hammering is always a possibility. This was borne out in Bolton’s 4-0 thrashing of Latics back in March 2010, a day I’m sure we’d all rather forget.

In terms of more recent form, both sides have been toiling at the bottom of the table with just one win apiece. Wanderers in particular have suffered – six straight losses just about trumps Wigan’s four while our 11 goals conceded pales in comparison to poor old Bolton’s 21. And we thought we had it bad. It must be noted, however, that four of the Trotters’ first seven Prem clashes have been against Liverpool, Man City, Man United and Chelsea, whereas Latics have only faced Man City and Tottenham in the same period. Quite obviously, this clash represents the ideal opportunity for both sides to kick-start their ailing season with three more than useful Premier League points.

Franco Di Santo

Franco Di Santo will likely occupy the lone striker role once again

Ref Mike Dean has been having a slightly above average season, at least according to Rate Your Ref. If the conjecture and extreme bias of such a site are too much for one to handle, may I point you in the direction of Statbunker, which claims Mr Dean has the fourth-lowest yellow cards-to-game record. Expect leniency, but only if the game doesn’t get out of hand early on, which I don’t anticipate happening. Oh, and guess who tops that particular table? Yep, it’s Howard Webb! I don’t quite know what I’m trying to say by citing that statistic, as it’s somewhat irrelevant…

On the injuries front, Latics will once again be without Hugo Rodallega whilst Antolin Alcaraz is set to be sidelined for at least another month. Boy, could we do with him now. Bolton may welcome Jussi Jaaskelainen back to the first team, but it isn’t a certainty and Adam Bogdan is on standby to retain his place in front of goal for Wanderers. Since Coyle has vowed not to rush Chung Yong Lee, Stuart Holden and Sam Ricketts back to the side following injuries, we can assume this will be the case for the goalkeeping situation also.

More changes may well be afoot –the international week could well have taken its toll on certain individuals–, but we will only know of them come 2.30pm on Saturday. By 5.00, we’ll know whether Latics will be celebrating a win or drowning in their sorrows – either way it’ll be pub time, after which the usual heavily biased, error-strewn JWAW report will appear online. Maybe.

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