Premier Preview: Liverpool v Wigan Athletic
After the interruption of midweek internationals, Liverpool return to the matter of their stuttering Premier League campaign with a rare Saturday afternoon fixture against Wigan Athletic.
The spirited performance at Stamford Bridge, which gained a point against Chelsea last weekend, stretched the club's unbeaten league run to six matches. With four of those games drawn however the Reds remain firmly in mid-table (13th), only one point and one place better off than the visiting Latics (14th).
If the Merseysiders are to climb the table into a more respectable position they will need to improve on their solitary home win so far this campaign. With the likes of Southampton, Aston Villa and Fulham to visit Anfield before the turn of the year, the match against Wigan will hopefully be the start of a successful run of results.
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers speaking at his pre-match press conference: "The players are bleeding the tank dry every week for me, they are putting everything into the game and I just hope very soon they will get the rewards for that and get the wins, because we are showing good resilience in the games.
"To come back like we did last weekend at Chelsea, without playing at our best was good, but it's important we win at home and that's what we will be looking to do at the weekend."
Wigan boss Roberto Martinez, who was heavily linked with the Liverpool hotseat during the summer, in quotes published by the BBC: "You need to make decisions in life at the time. Our chairman is a very persuasive man...
"Their [Liverpool] position in the league is just a snap shot of this moment. I do think Liverpool will be challenging for a Champions League spot."
Liverpool Team News:
With a host of players playing for their countries around the world over the last couple of days it will be an anxious wait to get them back and assessed. One player who didn't feature in midweek was Danish international Daniel Agger after a groin problem forced him to pull out of international duty. The defender revealed earlier this week that he had played with the injury against Chelsea because of the absence through illness of Martin Skrtel. Rodgers will be hopeful both of his regular centre-backs are available but after the assured performance of veteran Jamie Carragher he will not be too perturbed if Agger is ruled out. Elsewhere Pepe Reina will finally be available for selection again after the club decided against risking his hamstring injury in the past few games. Understudy Brad Jones will be hopeful of retaining his place however after a succession of solid performances. Another to be available again is Jonjo Shelvey after the midfielder missed the Chelsea game following a minor thigh issue suffered in training last week. Popular midfielder Lucas Leiva has stepped up his recovery from the thigh injury sustained back in August and should be available again by the end of the month. Fabio Borini (broken foot) and Martin Kelly (cruciate ligament) are still several months away from returns however.
Reina, Johnson, Agger, Skrtel, Enrique, Sahin, Allen, Gerrard, Suso, Sterling, Suarez.
Player to watch: Luis Suarez
Who else? Without wishing to sound repetitive, Suarez is our key player in almost every match at the moment with other sources of goals virtually not existent. The header against Chelsea was the Uruguayan's 8th in the league this term and moved him joint top of the scoring charts alongside Robin van Persie; an amazing achievement given how the side has struggled. The whole team combined has only managed 14 goals and Suarez has even contributed assists in a couple of those he didn't score himself. All competitions considered and El Pistolero's tally now stands at 11 and he will be confident of adding to the total against Wigan. For Rodgers, January cannot come quick enough so he can bring in some much needed support, especially with the player only one booking away from a suspension.
Wigan Athletic Team News:
The visitors are hopeful that key midfielder James McArthur will overcome the dead leg that has kept him out of the past two games. In his absence former Crystal Palace player Ben Watson has done an excellent job so it is unlikely the Scottish international will be risked unless he is 100%. On-loan Arsenal winger Ryo Miyaichi is also touch-and-go due to a groin injury sustained on international duty with Japan which has prevented him from appearing so far this month. Tricky wide man Shaun Maloney is likely to be fit despite pulling out of the Scotland squad due to an abdominal problem sustained in the Latics defeat to West Bromwich Albion last weekend. Spainish striker Albert Crusat (knee) and Paraguayan defender AntolĂn Alcaraz (groin) are both thought to be a couple of weeks away from being available for selection.
Al Habsi, Ramis, Caldwell, Figueroa, Boyce, McCarthy, McArthur, Maloney, Miyaichi, Kone, Di Santo.
Player to watch: Franco Di Santo
It is a measure of how much the ex-Chelsea forward has improved over the past couple of seasons that he was this week selected alongside Lionel Messi, Gonzalo Higuain and Sergio Aguero in the Argentina squad. The 23-year-old's first full cap is a glowing reference and reward for his increasing importance at the DW Stadium. A goal return of 3 this season is hardly amazing but there is now a maturity to Di Santo's play that sees him lead the line well and bring teammates into the play. The striker's work rate is also admirable and he will no doubt keep the Liverpool defenders on their toes this weekend.
Match Facts & Stats
• These two sides have met 16 times in their respective histories. Unsurprisingly Liverpool hold the upper hand with 9 wins to Wigan's 2 (5 draws). The Reds have scored a total of 29 goals compared to 12 by the Latics.
• The recent record is heavily in Wigan's favour however with Liverpool failing to win any of the last 5 matches between the two sides (W0 D3 L2).
• One of those defeats was at Anfield in March this year when Gary Caldwell got the winner in a 2-1 Latics victory. The result forms part of Liverpool's poor home record in 2012 with just 3 of their 15 Premier League games ending in victories (W3 D6 L6).
• If Liverpool take the lead on Saturday however they should be confident of a win with Wigan the only team in the Premier League this season not to earn any points from a game where they have fallen behind at some stage.
• Only Wigan (18) have conceded more penalty kicks in the Premier League since August 2010 than Liverpool (16).
Leicestershire based whistle blower Kevin Friend has been selected to oversee the Premier League match between Liverpool and Wigan this weekend. So far this season the 41-year-old has taken charge of 11 fixtures, showing 42 yellow and 2 red cards in the process. Friend has taken charge of Wigan once already during the current campaign after officiating in their 2-2 home draw with our Merseyside neighbours Everton at the beginning of last month. He will be assisted on Saturday by Andy Halliday and Ron Ganfield. The third official will be James Adcock.
Buoyed by correctly predicting the score against Chelsea, I'm going to stick my neck out and say I really think we've turned a corner of late. Results might not have been spectacular but performances have been pretty good and with every game there seems to be a development in understanding; there is certainly no shortage of effort or commitment that is for sure. Despite their recent track record against Liverpool it is difficult to see Wigan recording back-to-back victories at Anfield especially as our defence seems to have found some of its old solidity once more. Vital Liverpool predicts a 2-0 LFC win.
Liverpool - Europa League vs. Young Boys at Anfield on Thursday 22nd November 2012, kick off 8.05pm (live on ITV4).
Wigan Athletic - Premier League vs. Reading at the DW Stadium on Saturday 24th November 2012, kick off 3.00pm.
So that's what we think, how about you? Let us know your thoughts and predictions for the game below or vote in our poll to the right...
Click here to read former Red Mark Lawrenson's prediction
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