Wigan Athletic Preview - Home, November 26
BOTTOM OF the pile Wigan Athletic are Sunderland's next opposition with the Black Cats hosting the Lancashire outfit this Saturday.
It's been a slow start to the season, even by Wigan's standards, and the perennial basement boys look in real danger of falling out the top-flight this season.
The loss of talismanic winger-cum-attacking midfielder Charles N'Zogbia to Aston Villa has hit the Latics hard and working on one of the smallest budgets in the divison, Roberto Martinez has struggled to replace him.
Last weekend's 3-3 draw at home to Blackburn Rovers was indicative of a side struggling for confidence and form. Ahead with just seconds left, midfielder James McArther managed to decapitate Rovers 'keeper at the death to hand the visitors a penalty from which Yakubu levelled.
You know your luck is out when you foul a goalkeeper for a penalty.
One of the men looking to step into N'Zogbia's shoes is diminutive Spanish winger, Albert Crusat. The 5'7' Barcelona-born playmaker arrived on a free transfer from Almeria this summer after a long persuit from the Latics. Pacey and direct, Crusat nabbed his first goal for his new club in the aforementioned Blackburn game, the hosts third with two minutes left on the clock.
Former Celtic and Aston Villa man Shaun Maloney was also brought in with similar designs in mind but the versatile 28 year-old has featured just three times off the bench so far. Maloney's only previous experience in English football was a fairly quiet 18 months with Martin O'Neil's Villa between 2007 and 2008. Maloney made just 16 starts for the Midlander's scoring five times.
Another man that will have to up his output is Columbian forward, Hugo Rodallega. The former Necaxa forward has 22 league goals in 87 league starts for the club having signed in 2008. However the club's main source of goals for the last three years has failed to open his account for both club and country this season and without the dynamic forward's goals, the Latics look destined for the drop.
Martinez will be without Antolin Alcarez who serves the second game of his three-match ban whilst Steve Bruce can call upon Sebastian Larsson once more.
Wigan Athletic: Al-Habsi; Staam, Gohuri, Caldwell (c), Figueroa; Crusat, Jones, Diame, McCarthy, Moses; Sammon.
Sunderland: Westwood; O'Shea, Turner, Brown, Bardsley; Larsson, Colback, Cattermole (c), Richardson; Sessegnon; Bendtner.