Who: Chelsea FC at Wigan Athletic
Where: DW Stadium, Wigan, Greater Manchester, England
When: Sunday, Aug. 19, 2012
Time: 1:30 p.m. GMT/8:30 a.m. ET/5:30 a.m PT
TV: FSC (USA)
Satellite Radio: Sirius Channel 92
Odds: Chelsea -1, -125; Wigan Athletic +1, +105
Total: Over 2½ -110, Under 2½ -110
3-Way Odds: Chelsea -220, Wigan Athletic +625, Draw +325
Source: LVH SuperBook
Chelsea hopes to start the 2012/13 English Premier League season off in the right way with a win against Wigan Athletic at DW Stadium in Wigan on Sunday.
The Blues are winless in their last four matches—three preseason games on their tour of America and last weekend’s loss to defending league champions Manchester City in the FA Community Shield—while the Latics went 2-2-2 in the preseason.
While it looks easy on paper and the betting line has Chelsea a heavy favorite, this opener should be fairly challenging for the European champions, who have been very active over the summer transfer window.
With Didier Drogba, Salomon Kalou and Jose Bosingwa all gone now from Stamford Bridge, management has signed Marko Marin, Eden Hazard and Oscar to begin the club's metamorphosis into a short-passing, tiki-taka-type team for the future.
Now loaded with midfielders, the Blues are likely still in the market for another striker, with Fernando Torres and Daniel Sturridge the No. 1 and No. 2 players at the spot and an unhappy Romelu Lukaku being loaned out out to West Bromwich Albion.
Chelsea has been looking at a deal to acquire Wigan’s Victor Moses, but it seems that money is the issue, as usual, and the club isn’t totally sold on Moses’ ability yet.
"Chelsea have got to make their mind up—yes or no—and at present they're messing about a little bit, which is unusual for Chelsea, because they're up front if they want someone," Wigan owner Dave Whelan told Sky Sports News.
"They would usually go and make a bid and get the player. With Victor, Chelsea have come in with offers including payments later, etc. It's unusual for Chelsea, because they're usually a very straightforward club. If they come with the fee, we'll sell him. If they don't, we'll keep him.”
On Sunday, the Blues will get a very good look at the Nigerian striker and see if he’s worth the £8-10 million ($12.5-$15.7 million) the Latics are holding out for.
What will be the final result in Sunday's EPL opener?
While both clubs continue to play hardball with each other off the pitch, Sunday’s match on the pitch is an important one psychologically for both sides.
Wigan, which survived its relegation battle last season with a strong finish, can do wonders for its collective head with an upset of Chelsea, while the Blues can start their EPL season off on the right foot with a win in an August that sees them host Reading (Aug. 22) and Newcastle United (Aug. 25) next.
The last time these two met in the EPL, Chelsea won 2-1 at home, while last season’s match at the DW Stadium ended in a 1-1 draw.
This one should play out a lot like last year’s two meetings.
Wigan had the highest percentage (30.95) of goals outside of the box in the top flight last season but also conceded the most fouls (485) of all clubs.
Chelsea is 13-3-3 in its previous 19 matches versus Wigan and has scored 15 goals and allowed six (2.14/0.64 gpg) in the EPL at the DW Stadium.
Th Blues will again rely on their solid defense with Petr Čech in goal and John Terry, Branislav Ivanović, Ashley Cole, and either David Luiz or Gary Cahill likely in their starting lineup on defense.
What will be interesting to watch from Chelsea’s perspective is how Torres performs in his first match now that he has been tabbed the No. 1 striker in the post-Drogba era and how Hazard does as a facilitator and potential goal scorer for his new squad.
Despite some recent struggles in its last four matches, all fairly meaningless in the long run, I think Chelsea will find its groove Sunday in its league opener and gain some valuable confidence in the process.
With manager Roberto Di Matteo having some fantastic offensive options on his bench now in Sturridge, Marin and Oscar, Chelsea should benefit from its substitutes against a Wigan side which used just 23 players last season—which was tied for a league low with Stoke City.
The Latics and manager Roberto Martinez aren’t as weak as they appear to some, and with Moses, captain Gary Caldwell and goalkeeper Ali Al-Habsi, Wigan should provide a tough test at home against the Blues.
But trying to control guys like Juan Mata and Ramires will prove difficult and should be the difference here.
With Čech dominating in goal, I see Chelsea overcoming a slow start in this match and finding a way to score a couple goals, and I wouldn’t be surprised if El Niño notched one of them and helped take a little pressure off himself to start the season in the process.
Prediction: Chelsea 2 Wigan Athletic 0
Bets: Chelsea -1, -125; Chelsea -220; Under 2.5 -110
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