Manchester City will look to continue their recent league dominance when they take on Wigan Athletic at the Etihad Stadium in the English Premier League this week.
City are coming off big away wins against Manchester United and Chelsea in the league and FA Cup respectively, and will be keen to extend their winning streak again when they take on Roberto Martinez's side, who haven't been as strong in the past few weeks.
Wigan currently find themselves a full win inside the relegation zone with just a handful of games remaining, and are desperate to avoid the drop this year. And as we saw last year with Queens Park Rangers on the final day, Manchester City can be challenged by those teams facing the threat of relegation—something the Latics will be wanting to continue in this one.
Can Wigan pull off a stunning upset at the Etihad, or will City's recent dominance extend for another week? Read on for a full preview of the match including all the need-to-know details, live viewing information, analysis and predictions.
Date: Wednesday, April 17, 2013
Start time: 2:45 p.m. ET
Venue: Etihad Stadium, Manchester, England
Live Stream and TV Information
Fox Soccer Plus and Fox Soccer 2Go will both provide coverage of this match, with a live stream available in the United States via Fox Soccer 2Go.
Recent Form and Previous Encounters
Wigan and Manchester City have met just the once this season, with City emerging 2-0 winners from their fixture away at the D.W. Stadium courtesy of second-half goals by Mario Balotelli and James Milner, which was their 14th straight league game without defeat at the time.
City have struggled of late—winning just four of their past eight league games to all but surrender the title to Manchester United. However, as mentioned before, their defeats of United and Chelsea showed just how good they can be when they play their best.
Wigan come into this one with an interesting storyline behind them, having gone three games without defeat—their longest streak without a loss all year.
Moreover, the Latics have lost just twice in their last eight games and four times in their past 12, including just one of their past six away matches.
That will no doubt give Wigan plenty of confidence that despite playing against a very hot team away from home, they could still get a result from this one.
Key Players to Watch:
Manchester City: Sergio Aguero, ST
Sergio Aguero was City's main man in attack last season, and while he hasn't been as effective this season, he has still shown some deadliness in front of goal—as shown through his game-winning header against Chelsea on the weekend.
However, the talk around the star striker at the moment is all about his two-footed challenge on David Luiz, which he did escape action from the FA for.
The criticism has quickly flowed in for Aguero and seeing that he's available to play here, will be desperate to put all of that behind him with a strong showing—giving people something other than that tackle to talk about for the week.
The 24-year-old striker has scored 10 Premier League goals and two assists for City this year, and he'll no doubt be a handful for the Wigan defense in this one.
Wigan Athletic: Ali Al-Habsi, GK
There's little doubting that without Ali Al-Habsi, Wigan Athletic would have been relegated last season, and they would be in even more trouble than they are already this season—such has been the dominance and downright brilliance that the goalkeeper has shown.
In just 28 appearances this season, Al-Habsi has faced a staggering 384 shots (13.71 per game). Only four goalkeepers have faced more shots than that this year, all of which have featured in more games than the Latics' shot-stopper, who has conceded 55 goals in 2013.
However, break that down a little further, and you'll see just how important Al-Habsi is, given that seven of those goals have come from penalties.
That's 48 goals against in 28 games, which means that Al-Habsi is facing eight shots for every goal—one of the best shots-per-goal ratios in the league.
The Wigan shot-stopper has brilliant reflexes and rarely makes mistakes, and if his team is to hold out against City's dominant attack, he'll need to have a very big game. It took two shots to the top corner for the Citizens to beat him last time they met; will it be the same again in this one, as the Wigan goalkeeper does everything he can to keep City's strikers at bay?
Key Storyline to Follow: What Will We Learn for the FA Cup Final?
It might not have been the final that many were expecting, but these two sides will meet again later next month for their chance at the FA Cup—making this fixture a fascinating preview and insight into how the final could play itself out.
Expect Mancini and Martinez to be very keen to test out perceived weaknesses in their opponent that they can exploit in that final. That might result in some formation changes or tactical changes in this match, so they can get their experiments right when they meet at Wembley next May—which could well open up this fixture for either team.
Wigan can't really afford to rest players like City can, so they won't have too many secrets by the time the FA Cup Final rolls around. Thus the Latics will likely want to send a strong message to City in this one that regardless of what team they send out this weekend, the DW Stadium outfit are more than capable of taking home the premier knockout trophy in England.
Which could make this match a very fascinating fixture indeed.
Three Stats to Consider
8. Manchester City have kept eight clean sheets in their past nine matches in all competitions at the Etihad Stadium. They've also allowed the fewest shots against them than any other EPL side (81).
15. Wigan Athletic have failed to score in eight of their 15 Premier League matches against City, but are undefeated in the seven where they have scored.
42. City have conceded 42 percent of their goals this season from set pieces (excluding penalty kicks)—the highest percentage from any Premier League team.
At home, in the form that they've been in lately, it is hard to see City being beaten by Wigan, who have been less than impressive throughout the season.
However, the big question here will be what lineup City roll out. If they play their big guns then this should be a victory, but if they opt to rest some of their stars, then the Latics could well be a serious contender on the road, especially given their recent performances away from home.
The defending champions have the attacking strength needed to beat any opponent, but if Al-Habsi has one of his days, then anything could end up happening.
I think City get by thanks to late goals in the second half, which should kill off any comeback from the Latics. The scoreline will blow out late as a result, and it won't show at all how close this one really was, but at the end of the day, it will be another three points for the Citizens, and further problems for Wigan in their bid to stay in the top class this season.
Prediction: Manchester City 3, Wigan Athletic 0
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