Saturday’s clash between Wigan Athletic and Southampton may not be a game for the purists, but I can guarantee that the two sets of supporters will not care one jot how much of a classic it is as long as their side comes away with maximum points.
At the start of the season, I am sure most would have predicted that these two clubs would be involved in a dogfight at the bottom of the table at the business end of the season and it is certainly looking like it is going to be that way for the Latics and the Saints.
Although neither Wigan nor Southampton picked up three points in the midweek set of fixtures, both managers would have been delighted with the performance of their players and will feel that if they take that form into Saturday’s game, then they have a tremendous chance of securing a victory.
Roberto Martinez’s men travelled to the Britannia Stadium for a good old-fashioned footballing battle and unfortunately found themselves two down after 48 minutes.
As Peter Crouch added the second goal for Stoke City, it looked for all the world that there was no way back for the Latics, but one thing Martinez’s side does possess is incredible fight.
Instead of heads dropping, two minutes after falling 2-0 behind, James McArthur rounded off a superb team move to reduce the deficit to one and just 11 minutes later, Franco Di Santo volleyed home to restore parity.
In all fairness, Wigan then controlled the final 30 minutes and could have nicked it late on. If they start in the same manner that they finished the game on Tuesday evening, then a price of 23/20 on a Wigan victory could prove a cracking punt.
It is not often you can say that a manager is satisfied after his side is defeated, but on Wednesday night when Southampton visited Old Trafford, Mauro Pochettino was delighted with his players’ efforts.
Despite a 2-1 loss – a result which gave anyone who followed our pre-match prediction a 3/1 winner – the Saints pressed United for long periods in the second half and even Sir Alex Ferguson admitted his side were fortunate to claim all three points.
Fergie went as far as saying that Southampton’s second-half showing was the best a team had performed at Old Trafford all season – quite a compliment considering Tottenham recorded a 3-2 win over the Red Devils back in September.
Pochettino will make sure his players are not too despondent despite the loss and will remind them that a repeat performance will see his side leave the DW Stadium with a result on Saturday afternoon. Punters who fancy a Saints win can back this outcome at odds of 23/10.
But having talked up both teams, I am now going to sit on the fence and predict a draw in this relegation clash.
Neither side can really afford to lose and with that in mind, I can see them cancelling each other out – so the 23/10 on a draw is where my money will be going.
Earlier in the campaign, Wigan travelled to St Mary’s and against what was then Nigel Adkins’ team, produced one of their best displays of the season thus far as they beat the Saints 2-0.
A repeat of that scoreline can be backed at odds of 10/1 with bwin, but considering the impressive improvement made by Southampton since then, a sharing of the spoils at the DW Stadium looks to be the way to go.