Opposition: Wigan Athletic
Venue: JJB Stadium
Stats/Form: Wigan go into this game on the back of two successive defeats with one win from their last six. Blues have also struggled to win of late with just one win from their last four.
Blues and Wigan have only met nine times in the league, with two wins apiece. The other five matches were drawn although Wigan’s last win against Blues came in the penultimate game of the 1991/92 season in the Old Division Three.
Last time out: 08/04/2006 Wigan 1 (Johansson) Blues 1 (Dunn)
Memories: To be honest, because of the fact that I am in my mid-teens, I am struggling to think of too many memories of clashes with Wigan. The only one that sticks out in my mind is when we played them at St Andrew’s on the second day of 2006. At this time it was becoming clearer and clearer that we were in serious danger of slipping out of the Premiership whilst Wigan, on their very first sojourn into the top-flight, were riding high in the league. As the kick off loomed there was a feeling of dread amongst Bluenoses that we would get turned over by a team that was in only its third season of being above the third tier of English football.
The game kicked-off and Blues showed signs that this was, once again, going to be another sluggish performance whilst Wigan looked as if they were settling comfortably. About ten minutes in, Blues won a free-kick about thirty yards out. The out of form Jermaine Pennant swung his boot at the ball and off it went into the Railway Stand, cue much derision from the Blues faithful. Another ten minutes passed when a ball was floated into the box more in hope than expectation. It reached the far post where the previously derided Pennant leapt like a salmon and nodded home. The goal seemed now to add zest to Blues’ play and we missed several opportunities before deservedly increasing our lead on the stroke of half-time, when after a goalmouth scramble, Mario Melchiot poked the ball into the net.
After showering the players with praise as the referee blew the whistle to conclude the first half, the fans settled to watch a predictably but perhaps important drab second-half. The game petered out into a 2-0 win for Blues. At the final-whistle, Blues fans cheered a rare victory knowing that there was still a harrowing fight against relegation, which would eventually be lost, to come whilst our Lancashire opponents finished the season comfortably embedded in mid-table.
Final Score: Blues 2 (Pennant, Melchiot) Wigan 0
Team news: Wigan welcome back ex-Bluenose Wilson Palacios from suspension but are without both Jason Koumas and Michael Brown. Blues have Franck Queudrue and Liam Ridgewell unavailable through suspension whilst James McFadden and Olivier Kapo are both unavailable through injury.
Wigan (4-4-2, R-L) : Kirkland, Melchiot, Bramble, Boyce, Kilbane, Valencia, Palacios, Scharner, Taylor, Heskey, King
Blues (4-4-2, R-L) : Maik Taylor, Parnaby, Kelly, Jaidi, Murphy, Larsson, Johnson, Muamba, McSheffrey, Forssell, Zarate
Pre Match build up:
- Bcfc.com match preview
- Heskey says mood is upbeat
- Premier League preview
- McLeish prepared to switch Kelly
- Zarate happy to be marked man
- Blues up for the physical battle
Wigan key man: Antonio Valencia
Since arriving at Wigan following his performances in the 2006 World Cup, Ecuadorian international Valencia has made steady progress. His pace and penetration have made him a valuable weapon for the Latics, and with creative maestro Jason Koumas out of tomorrow’s game, Wigan may look to Valencia to provide ammunition.
Blues key man: Mauro Zarate
This kid is potentially world class, there is no other way of putting it. His recent performance against Manchester City was a joy to behold, as he terrorized the Mancunian backline and ended the game a hero after putting away two marvellous goals which ultimately won Blues three precious points. He could provide the bit of magic Blues will need to win the game tomorrow.
Prediction: With both teams desperate for points to try and pull themselves away from danger, you can bet your life on this being a close game. However I think the fact that Blues are buoyed by their win against Manchester City last week whilst Wigan have struggled of late, may give the Brummies the edge, A close one but a Blues win for me.
Wigan 1-2 Blues
Ladbrokes Odds: Wigan evens Blues 11/5 Draw 11/5.
I’m delighted to say that a popular and semi-sensible ‘nose (it’s the best I could do from the Joys & Sorrows forum) has agreed to take over doing the match previews, starting with the City preview today. Welcome Nat and thanks for your work.
Opposition: Manchester City
Stats/Form: City have won just two of their last ten in the league, whilst Blues will be looking to continue decent form at home under Alex McLeish. They have lost just once at St.Andrews since ‘Eck took over.
Since City got promoted from the Nationwide 2nd Division to 1st Division in May ‘99, they seem to have had a bit of a voodoo curse over Blues, with just two league wins out of a possible thirteen for Blues. City have won all of the other eleven encounters.
The last Blues win over City came in August ‘04 at St.Andrews, where an Emile Heskey header gave Blues all three points.
Last time out: 20/08/2005 Blues 1 (Butt) City 2 (Barton, Cole)
Memories: In the interest of having a balanced preview, I felt the need to have one good memory of playing Man City, and one bad one.
The bad one for me comes about a week before Christmas ‘05, the season we were finally relegated from the Premiership. A couple of thousand Bluenoses had gone up to Eastlands to see if Blues could notch up a fourth win of the season. What we were treated to was the second worst performance I have ever seen from a Blues side. To make matters worse for ‘Noses; this match, to bow down to the God that is television, kicked off at 5.20pm, meaning a whole day of Christmas shopping (or getting drunk) was gone. But anyway on to the match.
Nothing really to report until twenty seconds after kick-off, when Vassell went through on goal but was thwarted by Vaesen. From the resulting corner, an unmarked David Sommeil (I think I was closer to him than any Blues player, and I was about ten rows back in the away end), nodded home, meaning that one whole minute after kick-off we were 1-0 down. Fantastic.
Ten minutes later we conceded a penalty. Joey Barton stepped up; 2-0. On the stroke of half-time, just when things couldn’t get worse, they did. A long ball was punted up and Nico Vaesen came for it, completely missed it, leaving Sibierski with the chance of a lifetime. After half-time, we went 4-0 down through the best goal of the match from Bradley Wright-Phillips. Blues then scored through Jarosik, who did the one things football fans hate and kissed the badge in celebration. To then top it all off, Nico Vaesen, in what was to be his last league appearance for Blues, got himself sent-off, and because we had used our subs, Stephen Clemence took the gloves.
Final Score: City 4 (Sommeil, Barton, Sibierski, Wright-Phillips) Blues 1 (Jarosik)
The good memory comes in the last days of 2003. City went 1-0 up through Robbie Fowler, but Blues hit back midway through the second half through the unlikely goalscoring hero Jeff Kenna. With three minutes to go, a free-kick was flung in, Richard Dunne tried to clear, but his hoof hit the knee of Mikael Forssell, cue mass jubilation all around St.Andrews.
Final Score: Blues 2 (Kenna, Forssell) City 1 (Fowler)
Team news: Ridgewell is suspended and Kapo isn’t match fit for Blues whilst McFadden is also out. City have Dietmar Hamman and Michael Johnson back from suspension and a chest injury respectively, but defenders Micah Richards and Michael Ball are both out.
Pre Match articles:
City key man: Elano
Elano was the creative pivot City built their tremendous early form on. Since he came from Shaktar Dontesk in the Summer he has wowed crowds all over with his skill and vision, making him a hero with the City faithful. It is also noticeable that, since Elano’s form has tailed off, City’s has nosedived with it. Combine this with the fact that he score the winning goal when we went to Eastlands earlier in the season, he most definately stands out as the potent threat to be watched today.
How will the match turn out?
We will of course, have to show respect to the threat that City hold, however I think the fact that we need the win desperately whilst City aren’t really playing for anything but pride now should swing it our favour. A close game but Blues to shade it.
Prediction: Blues 3 City 2
Ladbrokes Odds: Blues 5/4 City 7/4 Draw 11/