This sporting weekend is one about taking a gamble, and hoping to end up with a lucky reward at the end of it. Football is put in the shade by the Grand National at Aintree on Saturday afternoon but 24 hours later, Wigan Athletic has their own battle, as they travel to Queens Park Rangers. The Latics start as clear favourites to win the game at Loftus Road in front of the television cameras.
Win and they effectively relegate their opponents, along potentially with Reading. A draw will be satisfactory but a missed opportunity to build on the momentum of back-to-back wins, while a defeat would be a disaster for Roberto Martinez.
This weekend is one where the favourites need to deliver for the punters. Gambling on a Wigan away victory might not be the wisest move, but their record on the road hasn’t been too bad this season. Before their recent home double over Newcastle United and Norwich City, the club had the worst home record in the Premier League. On the road, it has been a different story.
Wigan have collected 14 points on their travels – a record that is on-par with Aston Villa, but better than all the other sides in the bottom half – notably the likes of Stoke and Newcastle, who have been sucked into the relegation dogfight by the recent results for Martinez and co.
There have been eight defeats, but apart from a nightmare night on Tyneside when Maynor Figueroa was sent off and they lost 3-0 at Newcastle, a second-half capitulation at Anfield and the usual thumping at the hands of Manchester United, Wigan have always given their opponents something to think about.
Two of their finest performances of the season came away from home against rivals in distress. They took full advantage of a low on confidence Villa side in the Christmas period to crush them 3-0 at Villa Park, and were inspired in triumph at Reading at the end of February.
The other times all three points were collected were 2-0 at Southampton in August and a shock 1-0 success at Tottenham in November. Ben Watson scored the winner that afternoon at White Hart Lane. He has been out of action since a serious injury at Liverpool two weeks later that brought his impressive campaign to a premature end.
Watson’s loss has been made up for by the solid shape Wigan have in their midfield. James McCarthy and James McArthur have often made the difference in tight games, keeping the centre of such an important part on the field tight and condensed, and therefore allowing the more attack-minded Jordi Gomez the chance to create more damage going forward.
It is difficult to judge where the safety point’s mark this season will be. In fact, West Ham are probably the only club in the bottom half who probably don’t have to worry about a relegation scrap. Three more points on Sunday at another relegation rival will take Martinez and his Wigan troops closer to another top flight campaign.
See what the expert tipsters at OLBG are tipping on QPR