Liverpool will be looking for a strong rebound performance against Wigan Athletic after a shocking loss to Queens Park Rangers on Wednesday. The defeat dropped the Reds 12 points behind Tottenham for fourth place, virtually ending their Champions League hopes.
Aside from winning the Carling Cup, it's been a disappointing season for Liverpool. A lackluster offense, which has been prone to extended droughts, has caused headaches for players and fans alike. Upgrading the attack should be the Reds' top priority during the summer.
Wigan continues to battle for its Premier League life. The Latics currently sit in the relegation zone, three points behind QPR for the final safe position. They have a brutal schedule featuring Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea down the stretch, so an extraordinary effort will be necessary.
Where: Anfield in Liverpool, England
When: Saturday, March 24 at 11 a.m. ET
Watch: Fox Soccer Plus and FoxSoccer.tv
Betting Odds: Liverpool -385, Wigan Athletic +1030, Draw +410
Player to Watch for Liverpool: Steven Gerrard
Gerrard has been plagued by injuries in recent seasons, but he's finally enjoying an extended run of good health, and his production has begun to come back. The veteran midfielder netted a hat trick against Everton last week to bring his goal total to five.
Even though groin and ankle issues have sapped some of his pace, he showed the Toffees that his days as a lethal scorer aren't over if he gets left unmarked in the midfield. For the Reds to make a late charge toward the top four, Gerrard will need to find vintage form.
The Latics have one of the league's most porous defenses, so they provide another opportunity for him to build up some momentum down the stretch.
Player to Watch for Wigan Athletic: James McArthur
Wigan has struggled to keep the ball out of its own net, but the Latics have had even more trouble scoring their own goals. They rank dead last in the EPL at less than one goal per game, which makes Liverpool's woes seem mild.
McArthur has been one player at least showing some life in the attacking third lately. After going scoreless in his first 15 appearances, he's scored three times in the last seven games, including the team's only goal against West Bromwich Albion last weekend.
If Wigan is going to sneak at least a point out of Anfield, McArthur's recent hot streak will need to continue. The same goes for avoiding relegation.
Key Matchup: Martin Skrtel vs. Franco Di Santo
Nothing was more surprising about Liverpool's meltdown against QPR than the defense falling apart after going up 2-0. The Reds' back line has been reliable all season, but for a 15-minute stretch, they made a bunch of errors and Pepe Reina couldn't bail them out.
Skrtel will be charged with making sure a similar performance doesn't happen on Saturday. The veteran defender must ensure everybody is on the same page for all 90 minutes, not just the first 75.
Di Santo is tied for the Wigan lead with four goals on the campaign. He hasn't scored since late November, however, which further illustrates why the Latics are sitting near the bottom. The 22-year-old Argentine striker needs to get back on track against the Reds.
What They're Saying
Liverpool boss Kenny Dalglish was just as shocked as everybody else after watching his squad lose its lead against QPR, according to ESPN:
"I don't think anybody saw it coming. The players started the game fantastically, but the only thing missing was a bit of luck in front of goal," Dalglish said. "I couldn't see them getting a goal. I can't explain it. Maybe the luck they didn't get at Bolton they got tonight.
"Most of the game we were dominant, creative, professional."
McArthur said the Latics are working hard to remain in the Premier League even though people are writing them off just like last season (via team website):
"We want to move up that table and prove everyone wrong.
"It was exactly the same last year, everyone wrote us off and said we were down, and that wasn't the case.
"Hopefully this year will be the same."
Liverpool 2, Wigan Athletic 0