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Where will it end?

19 September 2010

City will venture into the crucible that is the raucous DW Stadium.

After pretty much wrecking their title challenge before it was even really under way, City need to get their Champions League qualification campaign back on track. And that starts tomorrow at Wigan.

This fixture has been a nightmare for City over the years. They’re 1-4-4 all-time at Wigan, and have yet to win there in the Premier League — the lone win came when both sides were in the third tier of English football back in 1998.

Last season saw the two sides finish even at 1-1 after allowing a sloppy opener to Charles N’Zogbia, before Martin Petrov equalized immediately after half time. Controversy arrived when City somehow were ridiculously denied what was a clear penalty when Maynor Figueroa fouled Shaun Wright-Phillips in the box. This was the second of what would eventually become seven straight league draws, ultimately costing Mark Hughes his job.

This is one of the types of league fixtures I dread in this new era at City, where the two outcomes are relief at them taking care of business, or despondency should they slip up and drop points. There’s really no upside at all, except perhaps in this case a win would give City fans a feeling that things are back on track.

So far this season, Wigan have been awful at home with a -10 goal difference, including the shocking 4-0 opening loss to Blackpool, the 6-0 humiliation at the hands of Chelsea, and the disappointing 1-1 draw against 10-man Sunderland last week. Their defense has tightened up in recent weeks, allowing just the one goal in their last two league matches.

The good news is they don’t play the ultra-annoying Anti-Football that you get out of Stoke City or the Route 1 nerve-fraying style of Blackburn, nor are they going to try to outwork and outphysical you like, say, Wolves. Roberto Martínez is applauded for his teams’ attempts at playing stylish, passing football, probably because fans of bigger clubs like that it’s easier to take points off them when they attempt to play us straight up.

As far as the team selection, we should see James Milner and Adam Johnson back in the team after getting a rest mid-week in Austria. It will be interesting to see whether Wayne Bridge gets another run-out in such close proximity to his season debut, or whether Roberto Mancini goes with Pablo Zabaleta or Joleon Lescott at left back. I’m expecting that Emmanuel Adebayor won’t be fit in time for this one, leaving the suddenly overworked Carlos Tévez playing as a lone striker.

Here’s a stab at what I expect to see from City tomorrow:

So while I’m not really looking forward to this one, I’m hoping for a comfortable multi-goal away win that puts wind back in the City sails. An 0-2 scoreline would be just fine by me.

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