Why Shaun Maloney 'really likes' expectation of Sheffield United to beat Wigan Athletic

Shaun Maloney admits he 'really likes' the idea that Wigan Athletic will turn up at Sheffield United on Good Friday with the rest of the footballing world expecting a home win.
Shaun Maloney with his trusted No.2, Graham BarrowShaun Maloney with his trusted No.2, Graham Barrow
Shaun Maloney with his trusted No.2, Graham Barrow

Latics have their work cut out if they are to extend their three-game unbeaten run, which has produced five points.

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Paul Heckingbottom's outfit are hot favourites to join runaway Championship leaders Burnley in the automatic promotion places.

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Maloney feels the Blades are good value for their lofty position with seven games to go.

But he is quietly confident Latics can spring a huge shock - and give their own survival chances a massive shot in the arm.

"I think probably everyone will expect Sheffield United to win, because they've had such a good season," said the Latics boss.

"Everyone probably expects us to go down, everyone's probably already written us off, the same as everyone's probably already got Burnley down as champions, and rightly so.

"And there's a part of that I really like.

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"We know Sheffield United will be big favourites to win on Friday.

"They are one of the best teams in the league, especially out of possession and being aggressive.

"And this is why we have to be better on the ball than we have been.

"But I prepare my team to try to win every single game, and that goes for playing teams at the top of the league, in mid-table or with us in the bottom three."

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The Easter weekend is often viewed as pivotal in the shake-up at both ends of the table.

Maloney, though, is not placing added importance on it.

"No, I never really saw it as a weekend unlike most others," he said.

"I love the games, I love competing, I'd have loved to have played in midweek after QPR instead of Friday.

"The way I see it, it's an opportunity to play two games in quick succession.

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"Two positive results could move us quite dramatically, and that's the motivation for us."

Latics, and the other sides in the relegation dogfight, were given a boost on Tuesday night when Reading's widely-expected six-point deduction was confirmed by the EFL.

That leaves the Royals just a point above the safety mark - and only six points ahead of rock-bottom Latics - who still have to go to Reading on the penultimate weekend of the campaign.

Not that the Latics boss has been in a celebratory mood as a result.

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"Unfortunately it is, but I don't get any joy in seeing another team getting six points taken away from them," he added.

"I understand it brings another team down to the 40-point mark, and the situation is what it is.

"But it's not something you get joy from, because we've been in that position, where we had three taken off us, and it's a real body blow.

"It'll be a difficult few days for them and their players, but they'll be ready to fight on just like the other teams at the bottom."