No doubt about it, the table makes for bleak reading for a much-maligned, established Premier League trio hailing from the north-west.
Often derided as unfashionable and undeserving of a place at English football’s top table (utter tripe, in my opinion), Blackburn Rovers, Bolton Wanderers and Wigan Athletic are staring the Championship in the face after enduring torrid seasons in their own ways.
While Blackburn host QPR in one basement battle, the latter two meet each other at the Reebok Stadium on Saturday in the sort of match that the tired old cliché ‘six-pointer’ was invented for.
Both Bolton and Wigan have spent the majority of the season in the relegation places and the stakes couldn’t be much higher, even if there will be 13 games to play after the weekend.
With the Latics rock bottom on 16 points, five adrift of safety, I think it is fair to say that if not a must-win game – I don’t like using that phrase unless there are immediate consequences for failure – it is certainly a game that Wigan can’t afford to lose.
Bolton are in slightly better nick, although that’s a bit like saying you prefer one of the guys from Jedward over the other.
Wanderers are 18th on 20 points, one point short of Wolves and QPR and it is safe to assume the relegation places will be filled by three of the teams mentioned here come the season’s end.
Even if, as I have no doubt many do, you fancy Bolton to beat a Wigan team with no win in nine league games, can you really bet on them at 19/20? Backing a team with the joint-worst home record at odds-on surely goes against the principles of being a punter.
So with huge pressure on both Owen Coyle and Roberto Martinez, how will a season-defining match turn out?
The odds are interesting. Bolton are the favourites in bwin’s 3way football betting market and are priced up at 19/20, with Wigan chalked up at 2720 and the draw that does neither side much good a 5/2 chance.
The first thing to take into account here is both clubs’ respective home and away records. In short, they are dreadful. There is no other way to dress them up.
Wigan have the worst away record in the division, losing eight of their 12 trips and winning just two. Martinez’s side have kept just one clean sheet, conceding 27 goals (only Blackburn have let in more), and have scored just ten goals in those dozen matches.
With a record like that you shouldn’t be able to give Wigan a prayer, but then you see Bolton’s home form and despair just as much. Coyle has overseen just two wins in 12 fixtures, losing eight, with the worst home defensive record in the division. No team have less home points than Bolton’s eight.
Having seemingly turned a corner, the dismal performance at Norwich last weekend would worry Bolton supporters and that is what makes this match such a difficult one to punt on.
Even if, as I have no doubt many do, you fancy Bolton to beat a Wigan team with no win in nine league games, can you really bet on them at 19/20? Backing a team with the joint-worst home record at odds-on surely goes against the principles of being a punter. I, for one, couldn’t bring myself to do it.
Similarly, you can’t go anywhere near Wigan at 27/10. Martinez seems to be paying the price for chairman Dave Whelan’s understandable cost-cutting – where did the money from the sale of Charles N’Zogbia go, for example? – and Wigan just don’t have enough consistent performers at this level. They have won just three games all year and you cannot back them at those odds.
So by process of elimination, the draw at 5/2 would be my advice, albeit with a small play.
Punters can claim a free £25 bet when registering with bwin and placing this on Bolton and Wigan to draw would provide returns of £87.50 if a stalemate is indeed the outcome at the Reebok Stadium.
Five of the last eight fixtures between the two in all competitions have been drawn and it may end up being a case of fear of losing overtaking the desire to win.
Neither side can keep a clean sheet – they have kept just three each all season – so correct score punters may want to look at 1-1 at 11/2 and 2-2 at 23/2 for a larger potential return than on the straight draw.
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