With four games to play for most Premier League sides, the 2012/13 season is reaching its climax, and whilst the title might have been wrapped up by Manchester United already, there is still plenty to play for further down the table, including Wigan Athletic meeting Tottenham in a game that is absolutely pivotal for both clubs.
For Spurs, the incentive is the chance of Champions League football, but staying in the elite is the aim for the home side.
It is Wigan’s first home game of the month, and it has already been a testing April for Roberto Martinez. Successive away defeats at Manchester City and West Ham have stalled the momentum that had been created by the late show at QPR, and the FA Cup semi-final joy against Millwall.
For the Latics, last week’s results went totally against them, although Aston Villa’s 3-0 defeat on party night at Old Trafford keeps them within touching distance for the first-time FA Cup finalists.
Wigan’s task will be made harder this weekend by the absence of Antolin Alcaraz. Alcaraz went off early on against West Ham with an injury, which immediately threw doubt over his participation in the Wembley showpiece against Manchester City on May 11, plus the crucial run-in.
Scans have shown the soft tissue injury isn’t as bad as first thought, but the Spurs game has come around too soon for the Paraguayan international. This means Gary Caldwell is likely to start again alongside Paul Scharner in the centre of defence.
Fans can also be encouraged by Ben Watson’s remarkable progress as he bids to make a late return from injury. Watson picked up a horrific shin injury at Anfield in November, but the midfielder is back training with the first team, and is almost fit to return. Again, this game is too early, but next Saturday’s trip to West Brom looks a more realistic and achievable target.
It was Watson’s goal that was the difference between the two sides at White Hart Lane in November, but Wigan’s Premier League record against Tottenham at home is poor. They have mustered just one victory, which was a 1-0 success in January 2009.
Maynor Figueroa was the goalscorer on that particular day, and his consistent performances continue to go unnoticed. Figueroa is among the best versatile players in the Premier League. He has adapted brilliantly to playing as a central defender in a 3-4-3 formation this season, taking the Honduras international away from his more customary left-back role.
He is a danger from set pieces, and he has a powerful shot behind him. Few will ever forget his free-kick from the halfway line away at Stoke in December 2009. Figueroa is out of contract at the end of the season, and he would be a big loss to the Latics if he moves on.
Tottenham of course have Gareth Bale among their ranks, so Wigan will have to be at their best to get the right result on Saturday.
See what the expert tipsters at OLBG are tipping on Wigan