Bottom placed Wigan host Aston Villa knowing that victory could get them out of the relegation zone as the race for survival begins. Roberto Martinez’s men will be buoyed by their 2-1 victory against local rivals Bolton last time out, but have only won one game at the DW Stadium all season.
Goalkeeper Ali Al-Habsi was greeted with a hero’s welcome in his native Oman when the Latics travelled to the Asian country for a break. Wigan participated in some warm-weather training and faced the Oman national side in a bid to increase their brand, as well as ‘cement the bond between us for the tough months that are ahead’ according to captain Gary Caldwell.
Caldwell scored the opening goal at the Reebok Stadium last week and was impressed with the performance of young players James McArthur and Victor Moses. Another young talent, Callum McManaman, has recovered from a back problem and should be involved in the squad to face Villa. Mohamed Diame has returned from African Cup of Nations duty and could be set for his first appearance after remaining on the bench against Bolton.
Villa’s season has been poor by their high standards, but they are seven points clear of the relegation fight between 16th placed Queens Park Rangers and their opponents on Saturday. Alex McLeish welcomes back striker Gabriel Agbonlahor following back and hamstring problems which has led to him missing the last three fixtures. Chris Herd could also be involved after his return from a two and a half month stint on the sidelines with ankle ligament damage.
Richard Dunne is missing following his injury in the 1-0 loss to Manchester City at Villa Park and McLeish is confident that James Collins and Carlos Cuellar will have enough to make sure Dunne’s absence is not a significant one. Charles N’Zogbia plays against his former side following his summer switch from Wigan and Martinez is wary of the quality the Frenchman possesses.
Wigan are desperate for victory to get themselves out of the relegation mire, which would not be surprising considering their exploits last season. Villa only have one win in their last six league games, which came away at fellow strugglers Wolves, and will be looking to extend the gap away from those surrounding the bottom three. McLeish’s men should eke out a victory at the DW Stadium and give themselves more breathing room in their hunt for Premier League survival.
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