David Moyes will be well-pleased to see how his team bounced back last week from a dour opening to dominate Southampton at Goodison Park. Saturday sees Moyes take his boys half an hour up the M58 to play Wigan Athletic. It will be more difficult for the Blues to come back from a poor start when on the road in front of a hostile crowd, but Everton have been quite solid away in recent times and will be looking for more of the same.
Everton have had some success against the Latics in recent years, one loss in the last thirteen games against them, as they attempt to maintain their hold on second place in the Premier League table. Wigan are languishing in sixteenth place with just four points from their six games so far. Roberto Martinez's side are reeling from three straight losses and will have a point or two to prove in front of their home fans on Saturday.
Martinez recently courted controversy after his side's 4-0 thrashing at Manchester United by lambasting the refereeing in that game, claiming he felt his side were "fighting against a mountain", with the penalty awarded to United being "as bad a decision you are going to see in the Premier League". This is not the first time a manager for one of the smaller clubs has raised his voice after an away game to one of the bigger sides. Also not the first time a manager has had his wallet lightened by the FA (to the tune of £10,000) for saying "I think it is important after a match you can be honest and have a pure assessment of the game. That is what I did." It will be interesting to see if this has any impact on referee Kevin Friend's performance on Saturday at the DW.
Team News -
Long term casualties Tony Hibbert and Darron Gibson are still missing from action, while Steven Naismith is still struggling to regain fitness after picking up a knock against Leeds United. Moyes will be hesitant to make any changes to a winning recipe, especially with a two-week international break coming up.
For Wigan, defender Antolín Alcaraz is back in training but unlikely to feature, while midfielder Fraser Fyvie is also doubtful. Jordi Gómez had his red card from last weekend rescinded by the FA and will be available for the game.
Keys To The Game -
Everton have started slowly in their last two games, and Moyes will be keen to nip that in the bud. A poor start to the game especially away from home could be very difficult to come back from. Hibbert's continued absence has allowed Seamus Coleman an extended run in the starting XI, and he has done very well posing an attacking threat with Kevin Mirallas on the right. Wigan will have to pick their poison on what to defend - Southampton attempted to close down the Leighton Baines - Steven Pienaar - Marouane Fellaini trio on the left and ended up getting killed by the Blues' right. Nikica Jelavić has meanwhile been cementing his reputation as being virtually unmarkable, popping up in all sorts of positions and potting goals with amazing alacrity, including a brace last weekend.
While Martinez's team has been involved in last day relegation battles the previous two seasons, there is real hope that this year Wigan will not be in that position come the end of the year. Martinez is one of the thinkers of the game, and always assembles squads that have good balance. His adventurous 3-4-3 system is in for a test against Everton's wing-based attack, and wingbacks Emmerson Boyce and Jean Beausejour will be charged with falling back and cutting out crosses. This could weaken their midfield, so and Shaun Maloney will have to come deeper to get the ball. Forward Arouna Koné has done very well replacing Victor Moses as the focal point of the attack, and he is Wigan's main goal threat.
Match Facts -
- Everton have equalled their best start to the Premier League, 13 points in six games with a +6 goal differential.
- The last time the Blues had a similar start was in 2004-05, when they qualified for the Champions League.
- Everton are chasing a third successive win - the last time they managed that was in January 2010.
- This is Wigan's worst ever start to a Premier League season.
- Wigan have conceded at least two goals in their last four Premier League home games.
- The Latics have had only one clean sheet in their last nine fixtures.