Millwall and Wigan Athletic clash in the first of this weekend’s FA Cup semi-finals at Wembley on Saturday, with both sides hoping to move one step closer to a maiden major cup success.
Both teams have relegation issues to deal with in their respective divisions, but for this weekend they can take their minds off league worries and focus on giving their fans something to cheer about at the home of English football.
For Wigan this is unchartered territory as never before in their short history have they reached the semi-final stage of this grand old cup competition.
This, however, will not be the first time they have appeared at Wembley, as twice before they have graced the biggest stage.
In 2006, the Latics reached the League Cup final, which they lost heavily to Manchester United, but prior to that they won what is now known as the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy in 1999 by beating, funnily enough, Millwall.
Wigan’s hopes of repeating their Wembley success over the London club are high and reflected in favourable odds of 9/25 on them to advance to May’s showpiece final.
Such a short price should be expected, of course, for a side who are 19 places higher than their opponents in the league pyramid and are also enjoying a rare run of good form ahead of this match.
Roberto Martinez’s team have claimed 13 points from a possible 18 in their past six league games since securing their place in this weekend’s fixture with victory over Everton in the quarter-finals.
This run of results has given them genuine hope of yet again retaining their top-flight status late in the season.
Millwall, who are priced by bwin at 19/10 to reach the final, have endured more of a mixed time since their quarter-final victory.
The Lions won their two immediate games after beating Blackburn in a replay, but have only been able to record two draws and most recently a defeat in their next three fixtures.
Tuesday’s 1-0 loss to Sheffield Wednesday saw them drop to within five points of the relegation zone and worryingly, they have seen goals begin to dry up of late.
Kenny Jackett’s men have struck just six times in their last nine games in all competitions and have only scored more than once in Championship games on three occasions since the turn of the year.
Wigan, on the other hand, have seen their strike rate rocket up recently, with an average of two goals in each of their last seven games, and the odds on them to score twice are 23/10.
The logical conclusion from these two opposing stats is that the game will end in a 2-1 victory for Wigan, who are not exactly renowned for their miserly rearguard – they have the third-worst defensive record in the Premier League.
Odds of 27/4 can be found on this scoreline, which would translate to winnings of £155 for new customers backing it with their free £20 bet after registering with bwin.
Assuming they win, Wigan will naturally be underdogs in a final against Manchester City or Chelsea, but if those two clinch a place in the top four, the Latics will be handed a Europa League place regardless of the outcome.
Martinez is savvy enough to know how significant securing a first-ever continental adventure would be in the history of the club – not to mention on his CV – and he should ensure his players are fired up to get the job done.