November 17, 2012; 15:00 GMT
Liverpool have a lot of ground to cover in the league if they are to come anywhere close to the top four. Considering they have finished off several big matches except for the one against Spurs, the Reds will be hoping to gain the most of the remaining eight games before the winter break sets in. And the first team they need to overcome in this effort is Wigan Athletic. A win over Roberto Martinez’ side could push Liverpool into the top half of the table for the first time this season, something that the players and Brendan Rodgers have been desperately waiting for.
Wigan are well placed in the 14th place, a point behind Liverpool. The team has picked up some impressive results through October till date which include a draw against Everton and wins against West Ham and Tottenham. Few would argue that confidence is high in the Wigan camp and considering Liverpool have just won one of the last six encounters between these two sides, Martinez will have to do very little with his team talk before sending out his starting XI on Saturday.
The Reds have earned a lot of praise for the brand of football Brendan Rodgers is looking to instill at the club but with just twelve points in their opening eleven fixtures, their style still needs vindication. They have lost just three games in the season so far but the bigger, glaring number is the number of draws they have been involved in – six. Rodgers recently stressed on the importance of bolstering his squad in January to turn these draws into wins but given that he will have to wait over a month before he can bring in new faces, a huge responsibility is on the shoulders of the youngsters who have recently been promoted to the first team. The likes of Sterling, Suso and Wisdom have impressed from what we’ve seen but they are in a tough spot where much is expected of them because of the prevailing situation and they have no choice but to up the ante with each passing game.
Wigan Athletic have been through a near-rollercoaster form in the recent weeks but Roberto Martinez is more than happy with the way the team has been functioning. The club has grown in confidence through previous encounters against Liverpool and the manager believes that his team just might be on the cusp of a good run of form in the league.
“Every game is completely different and we need to be able to adapt in different ways and to different challenges that you get week in and week out. But remember there is a process and we are getting very close to where we want to get.” – Roberto Martinez
Team News and Tactical Brief
It has been a tough week for Liverpool with players entering the medical room but none coming out. Martin Skrtel was ruled out of the Chelsea game due to illness but is expected to make a return against Wigan. Daniel Agger, who partnered with Jamie Carragher against Chelsea in the absence of Skrtel, has aggravated his groin injury and will most likely be sidelined against Wigan.
While Martin Kelly and Fabio Borini are yet to recover from their respective injuries, midfielder Lucas Leiva is back in training albeit he will not feature this week against Wigan. The biggest boost for the Reds will be the return of first choice keeper Pepe Reina. The Spanish international missed out on first team action in the league and in Europe for nearly a month due to a hamstring injury but could now finally start in goal against Wigan.
Brendan Rodgers was bold and went with a 3-5-2 formation against Chelsea last weekend but the system failed to work for Liverpool. The Reds have been excellent with their 4-3-3 formation which has been the primary setup used this season so it would only make sense for Rodgers to get back to this system.
The Liverpool midfield is unlikely to change from its usual look – Gerrard, Allen and Sahin in the center with Suso and Sterling starting on either sides of Suarez. Glen Johnson is likely to start at left-back, a role that is doing more good than harm for club and player till now. For the rest of defense, Carragher could be partnering Martin Skrtel this week since the Slovakian’s Danish partner is out due to injury. Andre Wisdom will again start at right-back.
Probable Starting Lineup (4-3-3): Reina; Wisdom, Carragher, Skrtel, Johnson; Gerrard, Allen, Sahin; Suso, Sterling, Suarez
There is good and bad news on the injury front for Latics. While midfielder James McArthur is yet to regain fitness from the knock he picked up before the Tottenham game, 19 year-old Ryo Miyaichi returned to training on Monday this week and could be in contention for to face Liverpool. But in all probability, he will feature with the substitutes and not the starting XI.
“It’s been a tough few weeks and I’ve been desperate to get involved on the pitch and in training but have had to remain patient.” – Miyaichi
Wigan have showed a knack of producing results against big teams with the 3-4-3 formation, so there is no reason for Martinez to tinker with the system. The defensive backline of Caldwell, Figueroa and Ramis will remain unchanged while Boyce, McCarthy, Watson and Beausejour will feature in midfield. Wigan’s star striker this season, Arouna Kone will start alongside Franco Di Santo and Shaun Maloney. Kone has scored four goals for Wigan so far and will be the key man for Wigan and Liverpool for different reasons.
If Kone gets the right service, then getting past an aging Jamie Carragher will not be a difficult task. But Wigan have performed better on the road this season than at home, with two of their victories coming away from the DW Stadium. Couple this with the fact that they are facing one of their favourite teams in this competition and we have a feisty fixture on our hands.
Probable Starting Lineup (3-4-3): Al Habsi; Ramis, Caldwell, Figueroa; Boyce, McCarthy, Watson, Beausejour; Kone, Di Santo, Maloney
- Liverpool have won just three of 15 Premier League games at Anfield in 2012 (W3 D6 L6).
- Wigan have won five and drawn two of the last seven games that Franco Di Santo has scored for them in the Premier League.
- Suarez has attempted 53 of Liverpool’s 140 shots at goal this season in the Premier League; no player has had a higher proportion of their sides’ shots (37.9%).
- Wigan are the only team in the Premier League this season not to earn any points from a game where they have fallen behind at some stage.
Facts courtesy eurosport
Player to Watch Out For
Luis Suarez (Liverpool)
The Uruguayan has been scoring goals at a blistering pace for club and country this season, having already notched up eight goals in Premier League and eleven in all competitions for Liverpool.
Brendan Rodgers’ striker woes won’t alleviate till January so his reliance on Suarez is nothing but an open secret. Expect more nut-megs and trickery from Suarez, maybe even a goal or two at the Kop end.
Liverpool 2 – 1 Wigan Athletic
The Reds are desperate for a good run of form in the league but more than that, they will be looking to strengthen their foothold at Anfield. Just one victory at home against Reading is not the kind of statement you’d normally see about a Liverpool side and Rodgers will be looking to turn this around against Wigan.
The Latics will enter this fixture on full throttle, picking up from where they left last season, a 1-2 victory that ensured another season of survival in the Premier League. But they will be up against a team that is waiting to take off and it will not be easy at the end of the day.