Thursday, November 23, 2017

Premier League preview: Chelsea v Wigan

Two clubs could be playing for their managers’ careers when Chelsea host Wigan Athletic at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.

Blues boss Carlo Ancelotti has been fighting off reports of his imminent sacking for the better part of 2011, and Wednesday’s 1-0 loss to Manchester United in the Champions League may have brought owner Roman Abramovich’s patience to the brink.

Chelsea are within 90 minutes of being bundled out of Europe, and with their hopes of defending the Premier League seemingly shot it may be that the only thing that can save Ancelotti now – if the big-spending Russian has not already pulled the trigger – is a top-three finish.

That in itself is still achievable, with Chelsea a mere point back from unpredictable Manchester City in fourth, and a win against the visiting Latics could see the Blues vault back into third as City visit Liverpool.

For Wigan, on the other hand, the situation is approaching hopeless.

The Latics are anchored to the foot of the standings with 31 points from as many games, two points away from 17th-placed Blackpool and another year in the top-flight.

Two points may seem minimal, but given Wigan play five of their remaining seven games away from home it would seem the Latics are almost certainly headed for the drop.

Remember – the Lancashire club have won just twice in 14 trips away from DW Stadium this term.

Wigan chairman Dave Whelan has shown remarkable loyalty to manager Roberto Martinez, sticking with the Spaniard while other clubs – Aston Villa, West Bromwich Albion and Blackburn, to name a few – have opted for change.

But with a record of 15 wins from 69 Premier League games, Martinez could soon be spruiking his CV if Wigan cannot conjure something extraordinary.

That task begins at Chelsea, scene of an 8-0 massacre on the final day of last season. Martinez – and indeed, Wigan – can ill-afford another embarrassment of that ilk.

Looking at injuries, Chelsea defender Alex has neared full fitness after knee surgery and could be in line for a spot on the bench.

Midfielder Yossi Benayoun had a late run in Israel’s friendly win over Georgia late last month and is primed for his league return after watching Chelsea’s Champions League loss from the pine.

Wigan have no fresh injury or suspension concerns.

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