Wigan Athletic Must Beat Tottenham Hotspur to Survive Relegation
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After a catastrophic day for Roberto Martinez, who saw his side lose 2-0 to West Ham, while three of Wigan's rivals all won, anything but maximum points against Spurs would leave them in huge peril.
Still in 18th, that Latics will be relying on Manchester United to beat Villa to at least keep one team close enough to overhaul.
If Wigan stay just three points behind The Villans by the time they face Spurs at the DW Stadium, a win would take them out of the drop zone.
A plus for Wigan is that United can now win the title with a win against Villa, after Manchester City's loss, after throwing away the lead, to Spurs.
Wigan, who haven't won in the EPL since their 1-0 victory against Norwich in March, need to start finding their shooting boots again.
They have only scored once, with a late Shaun Maloney goal to rescue a point against QPR, in their last three outings. If they don't find goals soon, relegation will loom large.
Martinez always remains positive and speaks highly of his team's performances and at the moment believes luck is not with them, but it can't last forever.
Talking to Sky Sports, after Wigan's second defeat in a row he said:
For us it is a good challenge to maintain that sort of performance, because you will never see a run of two games like we have had without collecting anything.
It's important that we don't drop our level of performance. If we keep performing like that, we will get the points that we need.
The problem comes when you drop the performance, but that's what we are going to be focusing on to make sure we get refreshed and ready for the next game.
Wigan will surely have to perform to the best of their ability again, if they are to triumph over Champions League-chasing Spurs.
Again, they will rely on their three danger men to help turn good performances (without the right result) into a winning display.
Shaun Maloney, Arouna Kone and Callum McManaman have to be at their best, and maintain their current good form, if the Latics are to stall Tottenham's surge for Europe's elite.
All three contributed to the Latics' FA Cup win over MiIlwall. Maloney's goal was assisted by Kone, and McManaman provided the second, showing how important the three players are to Martinez.
Kone is due a goal to add to his haul of 10 in the EPL, but he will need the support of McManaman and Maloney, as the FA Cup finalists can't rely just on the Ivorian's goals.
Wigan will be buoyed by the fact that they beat Spurs this season at White Hart Lane with a sole Ben Watson goal, so they have nothing to fear in that regard.
However, they will come up against a Spurs side that were devastating in the second half of their 3-1 win over Manchester City.
That result re-ignited their claim for a top-four finish, and with the imperious Gareth Bale (who scored his 18th league goal), back after injury, will come to Wigan in confident mood.
For Wigan to win, they will have to be more clinical and show ruthlessness in front of goal.
This was highlighted when Franco Di Santo was guilty of wasting a great opportunity against City, and Maloney more recently against the Hammers.
Their defense will have to be on song also, considering the threat Spurs bring with them.
Jermain Defoe is in line to start after a great goalscoring return against City, and with Bales's speed a constant source of threat, the Latics can't afford to relax for a second.
Martinez will be sweating on the fitness of Paraguayan defender Antolin Alcaraz, who came off early due to a hamstring injury reported by The Telegraph.
With an away trip to Arsenal on the horizon, the Latics' best bet for wins will come against West Brom, Swansea and Aston Villa, who they play on the final day.
If Wigan don't win against Spurs, they will feel that they need to win those three fixtures and nothing less will do.
But, due to Wigan's inconsistency to string consecutive wins, the Spurs game is a must-win, especially as it is a home fixture.
However, the manager believes that his team require two wins and two draws from their remaining fixtures to be safe. He told WiganToday:
Everyone talks about the 40-point mark, but it’s probably less than that because, for teams like us, goal difference will play a part. Then you rely on other teams.
For you not to rely on anyone, 39 points is safe.
But we don’t look at the fixtures and say ‘we’ll get a point there and three points there’ – if we’d done that we would have gone down last season!
Is it all over for Wigan if they lose to Spurs?
After next week's set of fixtures, things at the bottom will become clearer. One of two things will happen.
Wigan may win and the teams immediately above slip up, dragging them back into the fold, leaving a number of teams in the survival battle.
The second scenario could see the gap either stay the same or end up increasing, which would leave just the Latics and Villa vying it out on the last day (assuming Villa lose at Old Trafford).
The latter option at present looks the most likely to come to fruition, but one thing remains obvious—Wigan must win the majority of their final five to have any chance of securing a ninth season in the EPL.
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