Head-To-Head

Thursday 10 January 2013 12:30

Fulham and Wigan Athletic return to Barclays Premier League action when they meet at Craven Cottage on Saturday afternoon (3pm), having both been held to 1-1 draws by lower-league opposition in last weekend’s Third Round FA Cup with Budweiser ties.

The Whites fought back from a goal down to take Blackpool to a Replay with Giorgos Karagounis’ dipping volley cancelling out Ludovic Sylvestre’s opener on the hour mark, while the Latics also came from behind to draw with npower League One side AFC Bournemouth.

Wigan were trailing at the DW Stadium to Euan O’Kane’s impressive first-half strike and needed the aid of a penalty to draw level. Cherries keeper Shwan Jalal actually kept out Jordi Gomez’s 70th-minute spot kick, but the Spaniard reacted quickly to pop home the rebound and ensure a Replay for his side.

The opposition

Wigan’s results this season have been sporadic to say the least, although they have won only a game less than the Whites, with five victories in the league to date. Those triumphs do, though, include some impressive scalps – most notably when they defeated Tottenham Hotspur by a solitary goal at White Hart Lane at the start of November.

The Latics visit the Cottage at the weekend on the back of a run which has seen them secure just four points from a possible 24 in their last eight Premier League matches. It’s form that has seen them slip into the relegation places, albeit only goal difference keeps them there below Southampton who reside in 17th.

Roberto Martinez has preferred a 3-5-2 formation this season, with Emmerson Boyce and Jean Beausejour filling the right and left wing-back roles respectively. It’s a system that is pleasant on the eye and Wigan have once again been playing some attractive football in the 2012/13 campaign, although they haven’t always been rewarded with the points their play arguably deserves.

Last time out

Wigan Athletic 1-2 Fulham 22.09.2012

Following our triumph over West Bromwich Albion on New Year’s Day, Fulham will be looking for a second ‘double’ of the season when the Latics visit on Saturday, after we defeated them by a solitary goal on their own patch back in September.

We fully deserved to secure our first away win of the campaign when we visited the DW Stadium last year, with Hugo Rodallega and Damien Duff on target in an accomplished display by Martin Jol’s side.

The Whites took the lead just after the half-hour mark and – as Wigan fans will have feared prior to the match – it was Rodallega who opened the scoring against his former side with his first goal for Fulham. Dimitar Berbatov hung a tempting cross into the area and the Colombian striker’s desire to get there first saw him beat his marker to the ball to head home for 1-0.

Wigan enjoyed a strong spell of possession just before and after half-time, but it was the away side who scored next – and a fine team goal it was too. John Arne Riise found Rodallega down the left flank with an excellent pass, before the striker cut inside and fed Bryan Ruiz in the area. The Costa Rican – who was making his return from injury – held off the challenge of several Wigan defenders before laying off to Duff who smashed the ball across goal with his right-foot to put Fulham firmly in control of the match.

Arouna Kone grabbed a stoppage-time consolation for the Latics but Fulham held on to secure a valuable three points.

Players to watch

James McCarthy: The Republic of Ireland international has become the lynchpin of the Latics’ midfield and has been an ever-present in the Premier League this season. McCarthy is a box-to-box player with the ability to play an array of passes – he also grabbed a brace in Wigan’s 2-2 draw with Queens Park Rangers at the DW last month.

Jordi Gomez: A graduate of Barcelona’s famed youth academy, Gomez had his first taste of English football during a loan spell with Swansea City when Martinez was in charge at the Liberty Stadium. Gomez is an attacking midfielder who is also comfortable on the wing – his most prominent moment in a Wigan shirt came earlier in the season when he hit a hat-trick in their 3-2 win over Reading.

Ali Al Habsi: The goalkeeper’s reputation continues to grow in Lancashire, with the Oman international’s penchant for the spectacular save earning the Latics many points over the years. Originally signed on loan, Al Habsi has made the number-one spot his own with a series of impressive displays in the Premier League.

The magic numbers

2 Rodallega has scored two Premier League goals since moving from Wigan to Fulham last summer, one of those came in the reverse fixture against his former employers at the DW Stadium.

6 Wigan have conceded six penalties this season – more than any other Premier League side.

8 Fulham substitutes have netted eight goals this season, more than any other team.

9 Wigan have scored just nine goals in 15 Premier League meetings with Fulham and never more than once in any of those matches.

11 In his 11 Premier League appearances against Wigan, Berbatov has scored eight goals.

12 Fulham have won six, drawn six and lost none of their last 12 Premier League meetings with the Latics.

15 Wigan have scored the lowest proportion of goals in the 15 minutes leading up to half-time (five per cent) and the highest proportion in the 15 minutes after the break (36 per cent) of any team in the league.

50 Fulham have hit the target with a higher percentage of their shots than any other team in the top flight this season (50 per cent).

85 There has been an 85th minute or later goal scored in each of the last four Premier League meetings between Wigan and Fulham.

Bet Butler odds

Our official betting partner makes the Whites considerable favourites for Saturday's match, pricing us at 1.95 for the win. If you fancy Wigan to secure a first Craven Cottage win since 2006, then odds of 4.33 are available, with the draw priced at 3.60.

There have been at least three goals in 21 of our last 27 home matches, and in 21 of Wigan's last 28 away so it may be wise to have a punt on there being more at the weekend. If you fancy there to be over 3.5 goals then this bet is available at 3.0.

Dimitar Berbatov is favourite to open the scoring for the Whites and is priced at 6.0, with Bryan Ruiz available at slightly longer odds of 8.0.