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Premier League Preview: Liverpool - Wigan Athletic

Kick-off: Wednesday, December 16, 2009 - 20:00 BST
Anfield, Merseyside

Liverpool head into their midweek Premier League clash against Wigan Athletic hoping to bounce back from a disappointing weekend - and not for the first time this season.

Rafael Benitez had touted Sunday's date with Arsenal as a chance for his side to start the season anew, and come half-time they certainly looked a team reborn. Then Glen Johnson put through his own net and Andrey Arshavin struck an unstoppable winner to send the Reds boss back to the drawing board.

The loss leaves Liverpool rooted in seventh spot, five points shy of the Champions League places, and it has become abundantly clear that they will have to work mighty hard to retain their membership to the so-called 'Big Four'.

Veteran defender Jamie Carragher said recently: "Wigan is a massive game for us. We'll just attempt to get three points and then move on to Portsmouth. We have to look at ourselves and realise we have to do much better."

The Latics, meanwhile, come into the clash on the back of a 2-2 draw at Stoke City; but one look at their results so far in this campaign will tell you that form means nothing when trying to gauge this team.

Roberto Martinez's men have shown themselves capable both of conquering the best in the business, and of succumbing to the most humiliating of thrashings.

They defeated league leaders Chelsea in September, only to lose at Hull City the week after; they became the first team to beat Burnley at Turf Moor this season, and followed up with a 4-0 drubbing by rock-bottom Portsmouth; and then there's that famous nine-goal implosion at Tottenham Hotspur, immediately after which they proceeded to down Sunderland.

It is impossible to say which Wigan will turn up on Merseyside this week, but the fact of the matter is that Liverpool cannot afford to lose to either – assuming they plan on playing among Europe's elite next term.

FORM GUIDE

Liverpool


Dec 13: Liverpool 1-2 Arsenal
Dec 9: Liverpool 1-2 Fiorentina (Champions League)
Dec 5: Blackburn Rovers 0-0 Liverpool
Nov 29: Everton 0-2 Liverpool
Nov 24: Debrecen 0-1 Liverpool (Champions League)

Wigan Athletic

Dec 12: Stoke City 2-2 Wigan Athletic
Dec 5: Wigan Athletic 2-3 Birmingham City
Nov 28: Wigan Athletic 1-0 Sunderland
Nov 22: Tottenham 9-1 Wigan Athletic
Nov 8: Wigan Athletic 1-1 Fulham

TEAM NEWS

Liverpool


Fernando Torres cleared the cobwebs off his boots to make his first start in over a month on Sunday, completing the full 90 minutes. He'll be expected to feature on Wednesday, unless boss Benitez has one of his infamous selection shocks in store.

Alberto Aquilani managed 20-odd minutes against Arsenal, coming on for Javier Mascherano in the second period. With the Argentine battered and bruised, 'Aquaman' has half a chance to make his maiden Premier League start.

Last starting XI (v Arsenal): Reina, Johnson, Carragher, Agger, Aurelio, Mascherano, Lucas, Kuyt, Gerrard, Benayoun, Torres.

Wigan Athletic


Former Liverpool goalkeeper Chris Kirkland should start in goal at his old hunting ground, having shrugged off back pain to reclaim his place between the posts on Saturday.

Meanwhile, midfielder Hendry Thomas returns the squad after missing the trip to Stoke through suspension.

Last starting XI (v Stoke City): Kirkland, Melchiot, Boyce, Bramble, Figueroa, N'Zogbia, Diame, Scharner, Koumas, Gomez, Rodallega.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Liverpool - Glen Johnson


The England wing-back suffered his worst half in a Red shirt on Sunday evening, first conceding an own goal and then letting Arshavin have just enough room to fire a bullet past Pepe Reina. That was a blip in what has otherwise been a fine individual campaign, so every Kopite will be praying he bounces back in style on Wednesday.

Wigan Athletic - Hugo Rodallega

The Latics have had few constants this term, but this man's endeavour has been one of them. Possessing both ox-like strength and a penchant for the sublime, the Ecuadorian forward is the one Wigan will look to for that match-winning moment of magic.

PREDICTION

Liverpool 2-2 Wigan Athletic

Mick Maguire, Goal.com UK