Saturday, May 21, 2011

Match Preview: Stoke v Wigan May 22, 2011

Wigan Athletic will look to complete an improbable escape act with victory on the last day of the English Premier League season at Stoke.

After spending much of the season in the bottom three, Wigan came back from 2-0 at home to West Ham to win 3-2 on Sunday.

A late goal from Charles N'Zogbia secured all three points for Roberto Martinez's side, consigning West Ham to the drop and ensuring Wigan's battle to avoid relegation goes to the last match of the season.

Wigan are second from bottom, but are level on points with the two teams above them and just one point behind 15th and 16th places. 

With an inferior goal difference to their immediate rivals, the task for Martinez and his players is simple - they must win at Stoke to give themselves the best chance of survival. 

While a draw might suffice, if they fail to take anything from the match, Wigan must rely on one of Blackpool or Birmingham, away to Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur respectively, to lose more heavily than they do.

Wigan may have an advantage in that they face what is surely a deflated Stoke side with little to play for. 

Tony Pulis' side lost the FA Cup final to Manchester City last weekend and followed it up with a 3-0 league defeat against the same team on Tuesday.

They have already secured Europa League qualification through their FA Cup runner-up finish and are in no danger of relegation.

While Stoke would want to end what has been another impressive season on a high, it is difficult to imagine their players matching the commitment of a Wigan team fighting to preserve their Premier League status.

The visitors have close to a clean bill of health for their all-important trip to the Britannia Stadium, with only reserve goalkeeper Mike Pollitt unavailable. 

Stoke are missing centre-back Danny Higginbotham and forward Ricardo Fuller. 

Mamady Sidibe has missed much of the season with an Achilles injury and is still sidelined.

Winger Matthew Etherington was pressed into service for the Cup-final defeat despite being short of fitness. 

He had little impact at Wembley and Pulis is unlikely to risk further aggravating his key man's hamstring problem in a game where nothing is at stake for Stoke.


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