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Match Preview: Wigan Athletic v Aston Villa


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by ChrisVillan

In a period of seemingly eternal away games, Villa head to Wigan for a Sunday lunchtime fixture looking for their third league win in a row.

FA Barclays Premiership

JJB Stadium

Sunday 19th November 2006

KO 13.30

In an unusual twist of events (well, one has to freshen things up, doesn't one?) I thought I'd begin with the team news for tomorrow's showdown in deepest pie country. Wigan have doubts over two key players with Rollerskates Heskey (calf) and Arjan de Zeeuw (toe). Scouse full-back dynamo Leighton Baines also has a calf worry and David Cotterill has a groin problem.

For Villa, Gareth Barry looks likely to return from his back injury, but Gav McCann misses out through suspension after picking up his fifth booking at Goodison last Saturday. Our delightful local paper, the Evening Mail, is reporting that Stiliyan Petrov has a suspected pulled hamstring. It also seems safe to assume the back four will remain from the Everton game, with Olly Mellberg slotting in at right back to replace the injured Aaron Hughes, and Gary Cahill partnering Liam Ridgewell at centre half.

Despite our stunning start to the season, the odd doubt had begun to creep into Villa fans. It was understandable to an extent. I believe this season is about more than results but it is impossible to suggest that my fellow fans who hold the result as paramount are wrong. And so the longest unbeaten run in the country, from a team nigh-on relegated last time out, was offset by the number of draws, and by the fact that Villa hadn't won away from home. I disagreed, but football is of course about results and scoring more than them and all that. But here we are, one week on from the achievement of that elusive away win, seeking our third win in a row. What may look to the outsider like a nothing game, could well be a big hint that we don't intend our great start to be a fluke.

There was a lot of discussion before and after Villa's defeat at Liverpool, both online and in the pub. Looking ahead to our next three games - Blackburn (H), Everton (A) and Wigan (A) - the big question was what do we expect from that little run against three teams that caused us problems last season. Four points? Six points? NINE!? I certainly wouldn't have turned my nose up at six points if I'm honest, but here we are staring down the barrel of three wins in a row. I think that would be superb.

In fact, in the interests of symmetry, Villa should win. Obscure I know, but despite a large amount of, "Wigan have been found out" rhetoric and their not-so-special start to the season, they go into this game looking for not their third, but their fifth league win on the bounce. Presumably three from one and four from another would be preferable all round. Those wins were Man City (H), Fulham (A), Bolton (A) and Charlton (H). The latter may be a given but I'd argue the previous three are not.

That is no reason for fear however. They've had a great run but Wigan are no great shakes and this certainly isn't one to put down to the inevitable. It is winnable, though I'd take a draw from this one I think. Far be it from me to second guess any manager who isn't in charge of England, or David O'Leary, but I think Paul Jewell will be looking at their run and telling his players, "we've got four in a row and Villa aren't really any better than a couple of those teams". Let's show him we are.

So, once again the travelling army of Villans will play a huge part as they always do (just in case you haven't noticed, I think we have superb away support), and we could be in for another battle on the pitch. It's that kind of battle that I think we are actually ready for these days. Gritty Villa? Love it. Here's predicting a win, and actually believing it. 2-1, goals from Barry and Gabby, and one from Lee McCulloch, seeing as he's decided he's a goal machine all of a sudden.

Come on you Villa boys!


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