LATICS have nine games to save their season. Here, Paul Kendrick looks in detail at their vital run-in – and asks, can they repeat last year’s Great Escape?
Saturday, March 30 - Wigan v Norwich
Latics return from the international break with a home game against Norwich. On paper, Latics will fancy their chances of picking up three points against a side with only one win on the road this term. However, they have never beaten the Canaries in their five previous league encounters, and went down 2-1 at Carrow Road earlier in the season. Latics tend not to be at their best after seeing half of the squad jet-setting around the globe, but three points are a must and I think they’ll get them - just.
Prediction: Latics 2 Norwich 1
Predicted tally Played 30 PTS 30
Sunday, April 7 - QPR v Wigan
Sky Sports have selected Wigan’s trip to the capital as their live Sunday game this weekend, and it’s hardly surprising. If Harry Redknapp’s side are to have any chance of avoiding the drop, they’ll have to win this one. Latics, too, will be looking it as one of the most winnable fixtures of the run-in. Wigan have only won once at Loftus Road, thanks to Nathan Ellington’s solitary strike in 2002/3. But the class of 2013 are, man for man, superior to the Hoops, and can make it three league wins in a row in a high-scoring game.
Prediction: QPR 2 Latics 3
Predicted tally P31 PTS 33
Wednesday, April 17 - Manchester City v Wigan
Wigan’s trip to the Etihad Stadium has been rearranged for the Wednesday after the FA Cup semi-final against Millwall. The clash with the champions was always going to be one of the most daunting of the campaign, and the fixture compilers have done Latics few favours. Latics will either be high as a kite or down in the dumps after Wembley - hardly ideal preparation for such a big game. And with City still trying to hold off the challenge of Chelsea and Tottenham for second spot, it would be no surprise to see the home side take the spoils.
Prediction: Manchester City 3 Latics 0
Predicted tally P32 PTS 33
Saturday, April 20 - West Ham v Wigan
Latics have already won comfortably at Upton Park this season, 4-1 in the Capital One Cup. Both sides, however, will be significantly stronger for this game, with far more riding on the result. It’s quite conceivable the Hammers will still be locked in the relegation dogfight by the time Latics rock up in East London. But Latics absolutely outclassed the Hammers in the corresponding fixture back in October, despite hanging on for a 2-1 win in the end, and will fancy themselves to win at least a point.
Prediction: West Ham 1 Latics 1
Predicted tally P33 PTS 34
Saturday, April 27 - Wigan v Tottenham
The visit of Tottenham is always one of the glamour fixtures of the season, and Andre Villas-Boas’ side have proved themselves worthy Champions League challengers. Gareth Bale will be the main dangerman as far as the visitors are concerned. But the Welsh wonder was well shackled by Emmerson Boyce as Wigan won 1-0 at White Hart Lane earlier in the campaign. Hopefully Tottenham will still be in the Europa League, meaning they’ll have played the previous Thursday night, giving Latics an unexpected boost.
Prediction: Latics 1 Tottenham 1
Predicted tally P34 PTS 35
Saturday, May 4 - West Brom v Wigan
Steve Clarke’s Baggies have been one of the surprise packages of this season, but the trip to the Hawthorns will have no fear for Latics. Wigan have been defeated on just one of their four visits in the Premier League - on May 9, 2009, when Richard Kingson deputised in goal. Jimmy Bullard scored a last-gasp winner in 2005/6, while Jordi Gomez scored the decisive goal last season from the penalty spot. The Baggies are showing signs of running out of steam after a cracking start, and Latics are capable of coming away with a valuable point.
Prediction: West Brom 0 Latics 0
Predicted tally P35 PTS 36
Tuesday, May 7 - Wigan v Swansea
Another fixture that has been switched because of Wigan’s FA Cup run, which falls just four days before a hopeful Wembley final appearance. The home game against the Swans was arguably the low point of last year, although it did help inspire the fantastic finale of seven wins from the last nine games. Swansea have already won a trophy and booked their place in Europe via the Capital One Cup, and are another side who are not as strong as earlier in the campaign. Latics will be fighting fatigue as the fixture pile-up catches up with them, but they are capable of nicking a tight one by the odd goal.
Prediction: Latics 1 Swansea 0
Predicted tally P36 PTS 39
Sunday, May 12 - Arsenal v Wigan
This game will hopefully be taking place three days later, as it falls on FA Cup final weekend. Whatever the date, Latics will be hard-pushed to repeat last term’s historic victory. Arsenal have been hit and miss this term, but have proved they can match it with the best when they are on song. And with them possibly having to win to secure a Champions League berth, it may be a fruitless trip to the smoke for Wigan.
Prediction: Arsenal 2 Latics 0
Predicted tally P37 PTS 39
Sunday, May 19 - Wigan v Aston Villa
From a very early point, this game was always going to be hugely significant at the bottom of the table. We hope not, but it’s quite possible this could be a shoot-out for the final relegation spot, meaning final-day drama at the DW. Latics put in one of the best performances of the campaign in winning 3-0 at Villa Park in December, but the gruelling programme may be having its effect by this point. Nevertheless, one final effort will see them avoid defeat, take them through that magical 40-point barrier - and secure a ninth campaign of Premier League football.
Prediction: Latics 2 Aston Villa 2
Predicted tally P38 PTS 40