For the sake of massive FA Cup final underdogs Wigan, I’d love to cite the “magic of the cup” and predict a victory for them against Manchester City today. But I just can’t see it happening. For me, Wigan’s defensive woes are going to cost them at Wembley this evening when their injury-hit back line is likely to face the pace and trickery of Carlos Tevez and Sergio Aguero.
City have the best defence in the Premier League and Wigan the joint worst. In a nutshell, Wigan’s problem is that their defenders, even when the first choice men are fit, are relatively slow. And Aguero is lightning fast, a player who is a slow defender’s worst nightmare and a man who could cause mayhem in the wide open spaces of Wembley. Obviously, until we see the team sheets, nothing is certain. But Wigan boss Roberto Martinez has an awful dilemma. Namely, does he risk a player or two who is not 100 per cent when he has two Premier League matches to come, matches which will decide if the club stays in the big-time. Scharner and captain Caldwell played in midweek and neither man is the quickest. Today, there is a doubt about Caldwell’s fitness, anyway.
Martinez reverted from two centre-backs to three late last season when Wigan staged a remarkable rescue act in the relegation zone. Today, he’s short of bodies and may have to rely on a holding midfielder in front of two central defenders to try to keep City’s attackers at bay. City, on the other hand, have failed to deliver the goals that might have retained the league title, despite the presence of Aguero, Tevez and Dzecko. They’ve drawn too many games when they were well on top. I think they’ve suffered in the absence of Nigel de Jong, their holding midfielder who left last summer. As a result, Yaya Toure, such an awesome, attacking presence last season, has been more subdued this campaign. Nevertheless, I expect City to win by 2-0, at least.
As for speculation regarding City manager Roberto Mancini, I have to say nothing surprises me. People I speak to at City say the owners are patient, people who would recognise a second-place finish in the league and an FA Cup win as a successful season. At the same time, very high demands go with the bigger jobs these days.