Latics travel to the Bet 365 Stadium for their FA Cup 4th round tie with Championship side Stoke City. Wigan will be looking to claim another victory against opposition from the division above, whilst opponents Stoke will be looking to reach the 5th round of the Cup for the first time since 2015.
Latics Team News
It is no secret that the fixtures are piling up for us now, especially following news earlier in the week that the EFL are cramming another match into an already packed February schedule. Therefore, it wouldn’t be the biggest shock if Leam Richardson rested his key men for what is probably our lowest priority match remaining.
But in his pre-match interviews the manager confirmed this would not be the case and that he will treat the competition with the respect it deserves, news I’m sure the 4000+ travelling fans will be delighted to hear.
I’d imagine there will still be changes made, as well as potentially a move to a 3-5-2 system similarly to the 3rd Round tie against Blackburn.
Jamie Jones is almost guaranteed to come in for Ben Amos to continue his brilliant run as Latics’ cup keeper. If the move to a back 3 does happen I’d expect Jason Kerr to play in the RCB slot, something he’s done very well whenever called upon.
With Graeme Shinnie cup-tied a change will have to be made in the centre of the pitch, and this could see a debut for Luton Town loanee Glen Rea. He would provide steel in the midfield but there might be questions around his match fitness having played only 7 times this season.
In attacking areas Latics have a plethora of options including new signing Jamie McGrath, who arrived on deadline day from St Mirren. With Will Keane all but ruled out there is room for a Number 10, so what better way to introduce the ROI international than in an FA Cup tie in front of a packed out away end.
On a personal note I’d like to see 3rd round hero Thelo Aasgaard feature, maybe alongside Glen Rea in the midfield 2. Failing that we have seen the impact the Norwegian youth international can offer from the bench and I’m sure he can do the same on Saturday afternoon.
Stoke City’s playoff push has somewhat fizzled out in the last few months, with Michael O’Neil’s side having won just 2 Championship games in 2 months. Therefore, the attraction of a cup run may be heightened with little else for the Potters to play for and an on paper favourable tie against lower league opposition.
Michael O’Neil spoke positively about the work Leam Richardson has done this season and made it very clear they wouldn’t come into the game expecting easy victory. I expect them to play as close to full strength as possible, which will likely include a certain former Latics fan favourite.
Tactically, Stoke have favoured a 3-5-2 system this season, but they did change to a 4-2-3-1 in their most recent match against Huddersfield. They aren’t standout in any department, scoring an average 1.14 goals per game and conceding an average of 1.07 per game. They take an average of 11 shots per game and concede an average of 10 shots per game. Basically, Stoke are the definition of midtable!
I usually find certain anomalies or interesting stats for most sides, but with Stoke they find themselves in the middle of the road for pretty much every metric. They don’t get fouled very often, just 8.86 times per 90, that’s about as out there as it gets!
Player to Watch
Realistically who else was I going to pick! One of my favourite Latics players of all time, Nick Powell is the man to be most wary of on Saturday afternoon. Having returned from injury against Huddersfield I fully expect him to feature against us and cause numerous issues like every Wigan fan knows he can.
This season Powell has contributed 0.81 goal contributions per 90, albeit he’s only played 7.4 full matches. He takes 2.84 shots per 90 and I wouldn’t be surprised if he attempts more against us to try and get his name on the scoresheet. He’s also Stoke’s most fouled player which is unsurprising given his technical abilities.
In the 3rd round Latics managed to keep Blackburn’s talisman Ben Brererton Diaz quiet, and if we do the same with Nick Powell our chance of progression will be hugely increased.
This is a tough prediction because I really don’t have a clue what to expect from the 2pm team sheet. I’m sure whatever team we put out will be competitive and desperate to continue the brilliant unbeaten run, and if Stoke’s side aren’t on it I can see us turning them over. One massive factor will be the 4000 travelling fans, it’s expected the ground will be at an almost 50/50 split in terms of numbers and that could really boost Leam and the team. We love a cup run and I reckon we can give this a real good go.
Stoke City 0-1 Latics