Aston Villa assistant/caretaker manager Gary McAllister has been boosted by a return to fitness for Richard Dunne, who hobbled out of last week’s West Brom defeat, and Emile Heskey who missed the game with a knee injury having started the previous two. The home side for Saturday’s clash will however, be without midfielder Jean Makoun who is still suffering from a dead leg, although the Cameroon international had been dropped from the side since a return to form for club captain Stiliyan Petrov. McAllister did little to impress Villa fans with some pretty nonsensical substitutions last time out, leading to a defeat to Hidgson’s Albion, and in turn, every other Midlands rival in the league and cup this season. Had Villa got a result the Scot would have been likely to shuffle the pack but with survival not mathematically secured, the fringe and young stars at the club may have to sit out once again. The hosts will be buoyed by the fact that Mohamed Diame and star man Charles N’Zogbia are both doubtful and will face late fitness tests.
Despite Villa’s as yet insecure position in the league, there is no doubt that Wigan need the points more than the home side on Saturday as they sit 18th in the league with Villa 13th. With a win the Latics can move to within 3 points of their opponents and potentially take a big step to securing their own Premier League status next year as it looks like it will be 3 of the bottom 4 facing the drop.
Roberto Martinez will be hoping that his sides league record at Villa Park can continue having gone undefeated in their last 4 trips to Birmingham, winning 2 (both 0-2) and drawing 2. Villa have failed to score in the last three of those encounters and when it comes to facing Wigan, also prefer their away days having won their last 3 at the DW Stadium including the 1-2 victory earlier in the season, a game in which Gabby Agbonlahor opened his league account before Ashley Young dispatched a penalty. James McCarthy scored a late consolation and will be a key threat to Villa, along with fellow young midfielder Tom Cleverly, on loan from United.
Villa’s own youngsters will be hoping for a chance after Kyle Walker, Marc Albrighton and Nathan Delfouneso were all named in the provisional 40-man England Under-21 squad for the European Championships with the latter having returned to the club on loan from Burnley this week. Barry Bannan is another prospect to have been recalled of late and will be hoping for a place in the squad having missed out, despite assurances otherwise last time out. Ciaran Clark may keep his place if there is any risk in playing Dunne after replacing the 31-year-old at the weekend.
Wigan will be hoping that main striker Hugo Rodallega, a reported target for Villa in January along with fellow South American Maynor Figueroa, can pick up where he left off in Wigan’s last game at Villa Park after the Colombian netted a scorching opener on the season opener of the 2009/10 season in a 2-0 victory. As mentioned before James McCarthy was the last Wigan player to score against Villa having scored a spectacular own goal in the same fixture last season at the DW, both ending in 1-2 wins for the away side.
Possible Starting XI: Friedel; Walker, Collins, Dunne, L Young; Albrighton, Reo-Coker, Petrov, Downing; A Young; Bent
Key Man: Stewart Downing
Goalscorer(s): Bent x2, Downing
Final Score: 3-1
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