Newcastle will be looking to bounce back from their late defeat to Stoke City (positions above are form guide positions – Newcastle precariously positioned as 18th) on Wednesday as they entertain the side directly below them, Wigan Athletic. The Toon Army have lost four league games in a row for the first time since September 2008, which worryingly for their fans was also the season they were last relegated.
The Latics, meanwhile, head to Tyneside in a relatively high position compared to recent years. Wigan currently sit 15th but are only two points clear of the relegation positions they have become accustomed to in past seasons. Performances in their last two games have been positive for the fans, with a Jordi Gomez hat-trick inspiring a 3-2 over Reading last weekend and giving champions Manchester City a tough time despite losing 2-0 in the midweek fixtures.
James Perch’s suspension adds to Newcastle’s growing list of unavailable players. The utility player will only miss the Wigan game after picking up his fifth booking of the season but joins six other first team players in watching the game from the stands. Perch’s position in the starting line-up is expected to be taken by Frenchman Sylvain Marveaux, with the remainder of the team expected to be unchanged despite the midweek defeat.
Wigan boss Robert Martinez has rated both defender Gary Caldwell and midfielder David Jones as “50/50” ahead of the trip to St James’ Park on Monday night. Jones picked up a knock to his calf during Wednesday’s loss against City and Caldwell is recovering from a hamstring problem. If the pair are ruled out, they will join Albert Crusat, Ben Watson, Ryo Miyaichi, Shaun Maloney, Antolin Alcaraz and Ivan Ramis on the sidelines..
The last time these sides met, Wigan cruised to a surprise 4-0 win at home whilst they were battling relegation and Newcastle were chasing a Champions League spot. In their 12 Premier League encounters, there have been two draws and five wins apiece. Newcastle, however, are yet to lose against Wigan at home. Former Newcastle players have a habit of scoring in this fixture, with both Titus Bramble and Charles N’Zogbia haunting their old clubs after signing for Wigan. Magpies fans will be hoping, then, that former Newcastle defender Gary Caldwell loses his race to be fit for Monday.
Newcastle’s star man come Monday night may well be right-back Danny Simpson, who has lost just once against Wigan in four appearances. Simpson’s side has also kept a clean sheet in the three victories, proving the 25-year-old is experienced at keeping the Latics’ attackers at bay. His performances this year have been superb prompting rumours he may be on the move in January, with Italian club AS Roma a possible destination.
If Wigan didn’t have Ali Al-Habsi in goal, it is likely they would be a lot closer to the relegation zone. The Omani ‘keeper has been in inspired form for the Latics this year, consistently turning in performances of the highest calibre and making his £4million transfer fee last year seem like a bargain. Despite only keeping one clean sheet against the Magpies in four games, he has only conceded four goals against them.
Given both sides’ recent luck with injury, Monday’s encounter may be a tentative affair with the teams fearful of losing yet another player to injury. The Magpies main concern this year has been there defence and have already made one more defensive error (14) than they did in the whole of last year (13). Whether Wigan will take advantage of this remains to be seen as they have only scored 15 goals in 14 games.
Prediction: Newcastle 0-0 Wigan
Currently a sports journalism student at Staffordshire University. Previous articles have been printed in The Irish Post and the matchday programme for Ireland v Oman in Septemeber 2012.
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