Indeed both teams have played exhilarating football at times – Blackpool with more success early in the season as teams were still trying to work out their breathless counter-attacking style. However, survival in the Premier League is so often determined by whether a team has strength in areas other than attack. Nevertheless, this clash will see both teams playing the only way they know. And while three points would not guarantee survival, the confidence boost it would provide could go a long way to ascertaining the final league standings.
The two sides’ statistics refuse to indicate which might hold the advantage. Blackpool – despite sitting 17th, a point clear of the relegation zone – have the worst home record of all 20 teams, having lost more than half of their fixtures played at Bloomfield Road. Wigan, bottom of the league, are 14th in the away standings, but have won just two of their 15 games away from the DW Stadium. Both teams are set out to play attractive football – Blackpool with a faster, more breathless approach, and Wigan, offering a more controlled, probing style with lots of midfield movement. The two styles will surely lead to an open, enthralling clash. However, for all the praise received, both have severe deficiencies that must be worked on if they are to play in the Premier League next season.
Blackpool’s problem is clear – despite only five sides having scored more goals than the Tangerines, they are rock bottom in terms of goals conceded. This of course leads to incredibly high scoring games – more goals have been scored in Blackpool’s games than any other team’s, with an average of 3.5. But the failure to keep the goals conceded average below two per game has seen them plummet towards the foot of the table.
Wigan are more of an enigma. While they have very technical players able to keep the ball and break at pace, a lack of creativity and finishing ability in the final third has cost them dearly – they have scored the fewest goals in the league with less than a goal per game on average. At the other end only five teams have conceded fewer away from home than the Latics, which highlights just where Saturday’s game could be won or lost.
Should Blackpool manage to break down a remarkably tight away defence they could have a lot of joy. Whereas if Roberto Martinez’s side manage to keep things simple and probe Ian Holloway’s counter-attacking outfit successfully, then they can feasibly snatch the points. Both will be targeting the other’s weaknesses and will be expecting victory to revive – or kick-start, in Wigan’s case – the season.