18th August 2012
Wigan Athletic will have the honour to host Champions League winners Chelsea in their opening Premier League fixture, but that doesn’t mean the hosts will do any favours to the London side. The Blues go into the game looking to make amends for the Community Shield defeat to Manchester City and they could be in for a difficult clash at DW Stadium.
Just two months before the end of the previous league campaign, Wigan Athletic were seen as the main candidates for the drop, given that they were not only sitting in the bottom three but also had a very difficult fixture list in front of them. However, Roberto Martinez and his men produced quite a coup by winning seven of the last nine league game to finish the campaign well above the relegation zone, beating the likes of Liverpool, Manchester United, Arsenal and Newcastle in the process. Having seen what Roberto Martinez has done with what was a pretty average side, a number of top European clubs showed interest in the Spanish coach, but Wigan chiefs somehow managed to persuade him to stay at DW Stadium for at least another season. Key attacker Victor Moses also stayed despite heavy interest from Chelsea, but Hugo Rodallega and Momo Diame both left on a free transfer. In came Arouna Kone, Ryo Miyaichi, Ivan Ramis and Fraser Fyvie, so we can safely say the squad are at least as strong as last season. Having won last four Premier League fixtures at home, Wigan look they can continue the unbeaten run against Chelsea, even if Ivan Ramis and James McCarthy are both injury doubts.
In spite of the heavy summer spending, Chelsea largely struggled to fulfill their potential under Andre Villas-Boas last term and their season threatened to turn into a major disappointment when the Portuguese manager was sacked in March. Roberto Di Matteo was left to pick up the stains and he did a magnificent job, leading the Blues to Champions League and FA Cup trophies. Seeing that the team are not that far away from Europe’s leading sides, Roman Abramovich opened his checkbook to bring players like Eden Hazard, Oscar and Marko Marin to Stamford Bridge, with Didier Drogba, Jose Bosingwa and Salomon Kalou leaving the club. Chelsea lost their first competitive game of the season, as they were beaten by Manchester City in the Community Shield Match, but it should be noted they were in front when Branislav Ivanovic was sent off just before the half-time break. Even so, we could see that the new players will need some time to adapt to the new surroundings, which is the main reason why I doubt the Blues can win this game. Marko Marin is the only notable absentee, while new signings Eden Hazard and Oscar could both start.
Wigan players are full of confidence after such a strong finish to the previous league campaign and they do seem to have enough quality to stop Chelsea from winning at DW Stadium. The Blues are still far from the desired form and that could end up costing them precious points in Greater Manchester Area.
Verdict: Wigan with +1 Asian handicap
Best Odds: 4/5