Brendan Rodgers’ well-rested Liverpool side will travel to the DW Stadium this weekend eager to collect maximum points against relegation-threatened Wigan and extend their two-match winning streak.
While the Reds are unlikely to achieve a fourth-place finish in the Premier League this season, there may still be a chance for them to qualify for the Europa League should they finish fifth – or possibly sixth, depending on how the remainder of the FA Cup pans out. As it stands, however, the Anfield outfit sit behind West Bromwich Albion, Everton and Arsenal in the table. With just 11 games remaining, the Merseysiders must play catch-up if they are to participate in a European competition next season.
A brief glance at the top-flight table suggests that Liverpool will be firm favourites for the Wigan clash. After all, Rodgers’ men 15 points ahead of their upcoming opponents and Roberto Martinez’s side have won just twice on their own turf this term. Furthermore, no team has conceded more goals at home than the Latics in the Premier League this season. A repeat of the Reds’ comfortable 3-0 win from the reverse fixture back in November could be on the cards.
However, Wigan have proved to be a tough nut to crack for Liverpool at the DW Stadium in recent years. In fact, the last time the Merseysiders managed to beat the Latics as visitors was under Rafael Benitez in September 2007. In addition to this, the Reds have failed to win a league fixture on their travels so far in 2013, therefore an away victory may not be as simple to achieve as the table suggests.
Winter signing Daniel Sturridge, who has become such an important player for Liverpool in a short space of time, could miss out once again through injury. With Italian striker Fabio Borini also unavailable, Luis Suarez will once again be expected to lead the line. The Uruguayan is the second top-scorer in the Premier League this term and Rodgers will be relying on another excellent display from his star man on Saturday afternoon.
Another player who could be kept out of the starting line-up is young winger Raheem Sterling. The 18-year-old midfielder exploded onto the scene at the beginning of the campaign, wowing the Anfield crowd with some delightful performances which eventually led to him being capped by England. But Sterling has been unable to recreate those displays since the turn of the year due to fatigue, with Rodgers suggesting that the former Queens Park Rangers youth team star may need a rest.
It is perhaps a good time to give Sterling a breather, particularly now that the Reds have other options available to play in his place. Stewart Downing has been a regular in the first eleven in recent weeks thanks to improved form, while Philippe Coutinho has also been added to the squad. Oussama Assaidi, too, is available and he may be handed the chance to prove his worth over the next three months.
See what the expert tipsters at OLBG are tipping on Wigan