Friday, 31 May 2013

League One & Two 2012/13: Season Review

It has come to that time of the year again where we have completed yet another season in League's One and Two.

We begin in League Two where it was Barnet and Aldershot Town who were relegated and ends their time in the Football League, as they now face at least a season in the Blue Square Bet Premier. Barnet, now under Edgar Davids, have escaped relegation numerous times over the past few seasons, but not this year. The former Dutch midfielder has vowed to continue as manager at Barnet as they play in the non-league for the first time in eight years. Aldershot, another former non-league side join Barnet in the top tier of non-league, as they make a return to the BSBP for the first time since 2008. The Shots entered administration in early May with players being unpaid. The situation has yet to be resolved with 13 players being made redundant as they begin to prepare for the up and coming season in the non-league. Replacing Barnet and Aldershot will be Mansfield, who won the BSBP title, and Welsh side Newport County who were promoted after beating Wrexham in the Conference play-off final.

At the other end of the table, it was Gillingham who claimed the league title and made a return to League One alongside Rotherham and Port Vale who also achieved automatic promotion. Perhaps the surprise of the season was Northampton Town who finished in a play-off position. The Cobblers had escaped relegation the previous season and under Aidy Boothroyd this year, finished in sixth. Unfortunately it wasn't their year as they were beaten by Bradford City in the play-off final 3-0 at Wembley. Cheltenham Town and Burton Albion were the other two teams who made it to the play-offs but were beaten in their respective semi finals.

Player of the season: Tom Pope
Port Vale striker Tom Pope finished the season with an excellent 31 goals in League Two. Voted League Two player of the year, Pope's excellent goal scoring was one of the main reasons Vale earned automatic promotion to League One. His excellent exploits didn't go unnoticed by other clubs, but Pope was rewarded by Vale with a new contract during the season that will see him stay at Vale Park till 2015. Having played in the non-league, Pope will have another step up next season as he looks to prove himself at League One level. At 6ft 3' Pope is excellent in the air, and as a target man brings others into the game. As well as this he is a natural finisher and certainly knows where the goal is.

Port Vale's Tom Pope
Moving onto League One, and the final day of the season proved to be as dramatic as football can get. With seconds to go, Brentford were awarded a penalty in the dying moments of their final game of the season against promotion rivals Doncaster. A draw or win for Brentford would've seen them go up automatically. But having seen Marcello Trotta crash the penalty against the bar, Doncaster went up the other end to score and win the game, meaning they made an immediate return to the Championship at the expense of Brentford. The Bees made it to the play-off final but were beaten 2-1 by Yeovil Town, meaning more play-off heartache for Brentford and their fans. Sheffield United and Swindon were beaten in the semi-finals and face another season in League One. Bournemouth were the final team to go up to the Championship as they finished second to gain promotion automatically.

At the bottom of the table, four teams made the drop to League Two. Relegated from the Championship last year, Portsmouth were deducted ten points at the start of the season making it very difficult for them to remain in League One. It was exactly that, and the South Coast side finished rock bottom of the league and will play League Two football next season. They were joined by Hartlepool, Scunthorpe and Bury who were also relegated. 

Player of the season: Patrick Madden
The Yeovil striker from Ireland ended the season as the leading goal scorer in League One. With 25 goals to his name, Madden helped his side achieve promotion to the Championship. His exquisite finish with the outside of his boot in the play-off final summed up what a clinical season the forward had. Madden only joined Yeovil in October 2012 in a one month loan deal which saw him score once in three appearances. The one month loan was extended a further two months and on January 1st, Madden made his loan spell permanent by signing a two and a half year deal to stay at Huish Park. 

Paddy Madden
Fixtures for the 2013/14 season for League's One and Two will be released on 19th June 2013 at 9am

Blaming the media, but Suarez only has himself to blame

He has only played in England for two and a half seasons but Luis Suarez has had a bigger impact than most players to take to the field in the Premier League. The Uruguayan this week has stated that he is looking to leave Liverpool this week blaming the English press for the reason he wants to walk out of Anfield just months after penning a four-year deal with the club.

The forward has been the centre of attention this season both for good and bad reasons. Having scored 23 league goals for Liverpool, he finished second behind Robin Van Persie in the league's top goal scorers, the most a striker has scored for Liverpool in a season since Fernando Torres hit 24 Premier League goals in 2007/08. Suarez was making the news for the right reasons, and his performances were overshadowing the side of Suarez we have all come to know and dislike.

But it was too good to be true, and in the home game against Chelsea, Suarez inexplicably bit defender Branislav Ivanovic's arm which was punished with a ten match ban. The incident made sure that Suarez's season would be remembered for all the wrong reasons, putting all his hard work and excellent performances to waste.

Suarez wants to leave Liverpool in the summer
As they did with previous incidents, Liverpool stuck by the forward, something which was probably done with gritted teeth. A club masked in success had their image severely tarnished by stupid acts from one of their players. The club had t-shirts printed in Suarez's honour during his ban for racially abusing Manchester United's Patrice Evra, and as well as this, issued a statement of support for the Uruguayan after biting Ivanovic.

To have the support Suarez has received from both the club and fans, after what he has done, is a credit to the club who could have easily got rid of the player. To now have him questioning his future at the club, and mentioning Real Madrid as a possible option shows a complete lack of respect from Suarez. Liverpool don't deserve to be treated the way they have been this week, and instead, Suarez should have kept quiet and made a decision about his future behind closed doors.

However nothing is ever simple in football, and it was the English press who Suarez blames for the reason he wants out of English football. To most of us, using the press is a poor excuse and one that has been heavily frowned upon. Had Suarez acted in the correct manner on the football pitch, then perhaps he would have been treated a lot differently by the media. Suarez has no-one but himself to blame for the treatment he has received. The whole of Liverpool have backed the forward and during the hard times, they have supported him through thick and thin so he can't claim no-one has supported him.

It will be a real shame to see Suarez leave the Premier League if he is to go. On a footballing level, he is amongst one of the best players to take to a football pitch. The skill he brings to the game is a joy to watch and there are not many players out there like him. It will be a massive summer for both Liverpool and Suarez who need to resolve this saga as quick as possible.

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Championship play-off final preview: Crystal Palace v Watford

In the final of the Football League play-off final, it's the biggest prize of them all with the Championship play-off final which sees the winner promoted to the Premier League. Last season saw West Ham score a late winner to beat Blackpool at Wembley. This year will see the return of a former Premier League side as Watford play Crystal Palace on Bank Holiday Monday.

Crystal Palace:
Ian Holloway's men secured a play-off place on the final day of the season with a home win against relegated Peterborough United. Holloway was introduced as manager in November 2012 taking over from Dougie Freedman who made his way north to Bolton. Funnily enough Bolton missed out on the play-offs leaving his former side just ninety minutes from the Premier League. The Eagles overcame Brighton in their semi finals, but will play without top scorer Glenn Murray. The striker ruptured his cruciate ligament in the first leg against Brighton and is set to be out for nine months. Star winger Wilfried Zaha will now be looked upon as the talisman and player to take them up to the Premier League. The England u-21 international will play his last game for Palace as he moves on to bigger and greater things in the form of Manchester United next season. The pacey wide man has just the eight goals to his name this season, but his two goals saw Palace overcome Brighton in the second leg of the tie.

Watford were a penalty kick away from missing out on the play-off final as they witnessed a remarkable 90 seconds in the final moments of their semi final. Having seen Manuel Almunia save Anthony Knockaert's late penalty, the Hornets went up the other end and secured their place at Wembley through a strike from Troy Deeney.

We spoke to Watford fan Stephen Fletcher @sfletcherWFC about the semi final and what he's made of the season so far.

Describe the emotions you went through in the final moments of the semi final against Leicester?
Stephen: It is nearly impossible to describe what the 16,000 people packed into Vicarage Road went through in the last minute of that match; I still struggle to comprehend it! When the referee gave Leicester a penalty, we thought our season was finished. A season of hard work finished in an instant by a penalty. It didn't even cross my mind that 20 seconds later I'd be in the biggest crowd eruption of my life, as the Golden Boys booked their place at Wembley, thanks to the unbelievable counter from Almunia's fantastic double save. Talk about going from one extreme to the other; I've never seen anything like it.

How much would it mean for you as a fan to see Watford get promoted?
Stephen: We've had an unbelievable year and promotion would obviously be the icing on the cake, especially to do it at Wembley. We've played some of the best football Vicarage Road has ever seen this year and it would be a fitting end to a wonderful season. We've got a couple of good omens as well, for example, we got promoted through the play-offs in 1999 and 2006, so to do it again this year will mean we get promoted every seven years. Another bit if history we stand to make is that we'd become the first team to get promoted from the play-offs at three different venues in the form of the old Wembley (99), Millennium Stadium (06) and the new Wembley this year. Fingers crossed.

Some people have criticized Watford and Zola for their use of the loan policy this season, what do you make of that?
Stephen: Whilst I understand the criticism of many fans, managers and pundits alike, the key thing is that no rules were broken and we’ve just utilized a system which has allowed us to compete. Most Watford fans like to point to the successful model of our owners, who control La Liga side Granada and Seria A side Udinese, and they’ve achieved success through a great business model and through their acclaimed scouting network. I believe our model for business is much healthier than that of the big clubs who spend tens or hundreds of millions of pounds. Whatever people think of it, two things have been evident to Watford fans this year: the style of football is befitting of the Premier League, and the loanees have a passion, desire and love for the club. 

Will you be making the trip to Wembley?
Stephen: I’ll definitely be at Wembley on May 27th; it’s going to be an unbelievable sea of yellow in the Watford end. I feel like nothing can happen at Wembley that can match what we saw at Vicarage Road against Leicester, but we will be loud, proud and very yellow.

In three words, describe you season so far?
Stephen: Exhilarating, intense & wonderful

What is the main reason behind such an excellent season?
Stephen: As mentioned above the loaness have come in and Gianfranco Zola has done incredibly well to create a brand new team, a new formation and a new style of play that Watford fans simply haven’t seen before. The passion the players have shown has been matched by their hunger and it has all combined to make it a memorable season. The final 20 seconds against Leicester in many ways summed up our season.

Almen Abdi

Which player should we look out for Watford and why?
Stephen: Though Matej Vydra won the Championship Player of the Year award, for me the player to watch is Almen Abdi. The Swiss central midfielder is arguably one of the best players Watford have had, definitely in the recent years, possibly ever. He’s calm, composed, doesn’t give the ball away easily and is a major goal threat. Xavi may never play in the Championship but Almen Abdi is probably as close as we are going to get.

Danger player for Crystal Palace and why?
Stephen: It has to be young Wilfried Zaha; the £15 million man. Two semi-final legs against Brighton saw the two rivals at a deadlock, and the game didn’t look like going anywhere, until Zaha popped up with two big goals. He is the game changer, and the man we need to stop in the final. 

How do you rate your chances against Palace?
Stephen: The circumstances that saw us reach the final is just what our team needed after we missed out on automatic promotion on the final day against Leeds, and with renewed confidence and the squad absolutely buzzing I think we have a great chance. If we play the game, not the occasion, and play the football we are capable of we will win the game, I have no doubt. 

Predicted line-up?
Stephen: (3-5-2) Almunia; Doyley, Ekstrand, Cassetti; Anya, Hogg, Abdi, Chalobah. Pudil; Deeney, Vydra.

Stephen's score prediction:
Watford 3-0 Crystal Palace

Friday, 10 May 2013

League One play-off final preview: Brentford v Yeovil Town

From League Two to League One and the play-off final this year will be between Brentford and Yeovil Town on Sunday 19th May. Last season's final was a nail biter as Huddersfield narrowly edged out Sheffield United on penalties to gain promotion to the Championship. This season two sides many might not have expected to make it to Wembley, particularly Yeovil Town who were favourites to go down at the beginning of the season.

Yeovil Town:
Under Gary Johnson, Yeovil Town upset the applecart by making the play-offs this season despite being favourites to take the drop at the beginning of the year. Finishing in fourth in the league, Yeovil came from a 1-0 deficit in the first leg of the play-off semi final against Sheffield United to win the tie 2-1 thanks to a 2-0 victory at Huish Park in the second leg of the tie. Johnson was appointed manager of Yeovil during January of last season, and having kept them in the division, now find themselves 90 minutes from the Championship. Johnson is in his second spell as Yeovil boss and it was him that took them from the non-league to the Football League back in 2003. The season after, Yeovil reached League One, again under the management of Johnson. The last time Yeovil were at Wembley was back in 2005/06 playing in the League One play-off final where they were beaten 2-0 by Blackpool.

It has been quite an eventful season with Brentford, missing out on automatic promotion on the last day of the season, as well as taking Chelsea to a replay in the FA Cup. The Bees have been in League One for four seasons now and having missed out on the play-offs in the previous two seasons, now find themselves within an arms length of the Championship.

We spoke to Brentford fan Adam Rosario (@poeticjustice92) on his team's chances next weekend.

First of all Adam, how is your health after the semi final against Swindon? Must have been quite a drama for a Brentford fan?
Adam: Being a Brentford fan for many, many years, I've seen us come close, and always somehow lose in the face of glory. Sunday, showed that we've turned the corner finally. The players love taking the fans on a rollercoaster of emotion, as we went through apprehension, elation, despair and elation again, all in approximately two hours! It's a relief especially after the game against Doncaster, we've got the best squad in the play-offs and we should already be promoted, so it's rewards in my honest opinion.

After the drama of Swindon and of course Doncaster, how much would it mean to see Brentford get promotion?
Adam: It would probably be the highlight of my fandom. Being a fan for the past 13 years, I've seen us have big upsets, and some very low lows. In the past, I've witnessed Brentford turning over Sunderland in the FA Cup, beat Everton on penalties in the League Cup, and take Chelsea to a replay earlier this season in the FA Cup. I've also seen us lose at Wembley, so if we were to win it, the players would be rewarding all of the loyal fans for what we have had to endure. A crazy 16 seconds last Saturday cost us a place in the Championship, and this season has proven that we deserve to be there.

Going back to Doncaster, describe your feelings in those last minutes of the game?
Adam: Unfortunately I wasn't in attendance for the game, but when it was announced on Sky Sports that we had a penalty, my first reaction was 'we've missed this'. When Marcello Trotta was announced as the man to take it, my reaction was we've really missed this!'. And then we all know what happened afterwards. I was confused to why Trotta had taken the penalty to be honest. I felt the only man who should be able to miss a penalty to take us up was Brentford stalwart Kevin O'Connor. So in the end I was distraught and confused, but not overly surprised at the result.

How do you see your chances against Yeovil in the final?
Adam: I feel that we will go into the match as favourites to be perfectly honest. we've lost the least amount of games in the league this year and boast the best home record too, the stats don't lie. Wembley is six miles away from us, so effectively we are at home for this match. The main problem will be whether the team get swallowed up by the size of Wembley and the whole occasion. As long as we get the ball down and play our game, we will be fine.

Yeovil beat you home and away this season, do you think this matters going into the game?
Adam: Not at all. This team has a spirit, desire and mentality which is screaming for the Championship. Uwe Rosler has instilled a sense of never say die in the team and the fans. As shown with late goals throughout the season, like against Portsmouth, Sheffield United, and Swindon in the first leg, Rosler has a team which plays for him and plays to the whistle for him and the fans. Rosler declared that the fans were the most important part of the play-offs as we can be the 12th man and give the players a boost when it’s needed. This is a cup final, all other games and results mean nothing even if we’ve been the best team at home. The players have the mentality, the spirit and the manager to complete the fairytale season we’ve had. If you had offered us this position at the start of last season, all the fans would’ve taken it.

Harry Forrester
Who is the one player to look out for Brentford?
Adam: I'm going to cheat for this and pick a player out for each position!
GK: Simon Moore has been a revelation in goal, quick and commanding in the air, he’s been linked with Manchester United and deservedly so. He’ll be a key part of the machine if we do go up, as he is one for the future.
DF: In defence, the vice captain for the year, Harlee Dean. Joining after a spell on loan from Southampton, he’s been a leader when we’ve needed him. At 21, he’s got time on his side, and would not look out of place in the Premier League with a show-stealing performance against Chelsea this year, making him one to watch.
MF: Midfield maestro, and one of the best young players in the league, Adam Forshaw scored the winning penalty and had a match to remember in the semi final. Two-footed, calm, and with a great footballing brain, Forshaw can mix it with the best, and he’s one of the first names on the team sheet, with the eye for the killer pass and link up play to match.
FW: In my opinion, our best player this season, has been the forward, Harry Forrester. The boy can play, and he’s shown it this year. Joining Brentford after a trial at Ajax, in which he scored a hat trick in a reserve game, he’s had to wait for his chance and this year he has shown why he’s so highly rated in the league. Small in stature, but stamina, pace, two feet, tricks, set pieces, and a great shot, all point towards our talisman. Even if he starts on the bench, he can change any game he wants and we wouldn’t be here now without him.

What do you think has been the key to your successful season having missed out on the play-offs in the last couple of years?
Adam: Quite simply, Uwe Rosler. He’s come in with new ideas, a clear goal and he commands the respect of the players. He galvanises the team, even when we score. He’ll grab a player and tell them what they’re doing wrong and to filter in tactics. He’s always turned on, and is a great tactician. He knows when to switch game plans, and as I’ve stated, he’s got the spirit of never say die into the team. He likes to play positive free flowing football but doesn’t like to restrict the players to their positions, as seen with Forrester, who has been given a free role to move where he wants and where he feels he will make the most contribution.

Predicted line up for?
Adam: Moore; Logan, Dean, Craig, Bidwell; Forshaw, Diagouraga, Adeyami, Forrester; Donaldson, Wright-Phillips.
Subs: Gounet (GK); O'Connor, Hodson, Douglas, Saunders, El Alagui, Trotta
* Adeyemi suffered a shoulder injury in the semi final which may rule him out, so if that is the case I think Saunders will replace him,

Adam's score prediction: 
Brentford to win 2-1, although penalties wouldn't be a surprise! 

Yeovil Town v Brentford will be shown live on Sky Sports 1 on Sunday 19th May from 13:00. 

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

League Two play-off final preview: Bradford City v Northampton Town

With the Football League season only finishing a couple weeks ago, there are still promotion places to settle through the play-offs. The League Two play-off final is the first to take to the Wembley turf on Saturday 18th May, which will see Bradford City take on Northampton Town for the right to play in League One next season.

Bradford City:
Bradford find themselves visiting Wembley for the second time this season. The last visit was one to remember and forget for the Bantams as they were beaten 5-0 by Swansea in the Captial One Cup final. If they were to secure promotion as well this season, then it would have been an extraordinary season for them. Their run in the Capital One Cup saw them overcome Premier League opposition in both Arsenal and Aston Villa. Phil Parkinson's men came from a goal down in the play-off semi final eventually winning 5-4 on aggregate against Burton Albion. Having been 3-2 down from the first leg, City won 3-1 at the Pirelli to make the final. Once of the Premier League, Bradford have been in League Two since the 2007 season and will want to start making a return up the leagues with victory over Northampton come the 18th May.

Northampton Town:
The Cobblers find themselves 90 minutes away from a possible return to League One for the first time since 2009. Under the management of Aidy Boothroyd, Northampton have gone from narrowly avoiding relegation last year, to a top six finish this year. Beating Cheltenham over two legs in the semi finals, Town ended a poor run of form having only won one of their six games played in April. Northampton hadn't had much luck previously in the play-offs with defeats in 2003/04 to Mansfield and then again the following season to Southend United.

We spoke to Cobblers fan of 13 years Ashley Lambell (@ashlambell) about his side's chances in the final and his views on the season just gone.

What does it feel like to be 90 minutes away from promotion and League One?
Ashley: The prospect of local derbies against Peterborough and MK Dons as well as potential games against Wolves, Sheffield United and Coventry means that everyone associated with Northampton Town is really excited for this game!

Where does reaching the play-off final rank in the club's history?
Ashley: The play-off final will be another great moment in the history alongside the two previous visits to Wembley in the 1990s and the Carling Cup victory against Liverpool. Definitely in the top five I would say.

What do you think has been the key to your successful season having narrowly avoided relegation last season?
Ashley: We've looked a better team unit this season rather than a bunch of talented individuals thrown together. Aidy Boothroyd has instilled a real togetherness in the squad and the football club, and the players seem to believe that anything is possible this season.

How much of a threat are Bradford City, and is there a stand out player for them you are worried about?
Ashley: Bradford are a tough team and certainly won't be an easy game for us, especially as they've been to Wembley already this season. Nakhi Wells always has a great goalscoring record against us, and we will need to be wary of his sharpness and finishing on the day.

You drew and lost against Bradford in the league this season, do you think this matters going into the final?
Ashley: I don't think it does. We finished higher than Bradford in the league table and to me, that is a more accurate reflection of the season the two teams have had. Cheltenham had beaten us twice in the league before the play-off semi-final but we saw them off quite comfortably so there is no reason why we can't do the same again.

Which player should we watch out for Northampton Town?
Ashley: Everyone will, of course, look out for 'Bayo Akinfenwa' but I would say Chris Hackett is our stand out player. With his devastating mix of pace, power and clinical finishing, he is a winger to be feared and with the large pitch at Wembley, he could be a match-winner.
Chris Hackett
Going onto Akinfenwa, he has had an excellent season for you, how important is it for him to be on his game in the final?
Ashley: Massively important. When Bayo has his 'beastmode' switched on, he is almost impossible to handle and we certainly look a much better outfit when he performs well. Hopefully his experience of playing in a final before, for Swansea, will come in useful next weekend.

Finally, will you be making the trip to Wembley?
Ashley: I definitely will be! It's going to be a massive day for the club, and proof of just how far we have progressed in the last 18 months.

Predicted line up: 
Ashley: Nicholls; Tozer, Carlisle, Langmead, Collins; Demontagnac, Guttridge, Harding, Hackett; O'Donovan, Akinfenwa

Ashley's score prediction: 
Bradford 1-2 Northampton Town

Bradford City v Northampton Town will be shown live on Sky Sports 2 on Saturday 18th May from 13:00. 

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

FA Cup Final Preview: Man City v Wigan Athletic

It's that time of the year again when silverware is decided, memories are made and every decision is critical. This Saturday evening sees the FA Cup Final which will be contested between former Premier League champions Manchester City and fellow top flight side Wigan Athletic. It has been an interesting season for both clubs with this final meaning something different for both clubs. Manchester City look likely to finish second this season having missed out on the title to rivals United, while opponents Wigan are attempting another miraculous escape from the league's relegation zone.

Man City:
Having missed out on the Premier League, Roberto Mancini will be desperate to win the FA Cup and take a piece of silverware back to the Etihad. His men have now made the final for the second time in three seasons after they beat Stoke at Wembley two years ago thanks to a Yaya Toure goal. City reached the final this year thanks to a 2-1 victory in the semi finals over Chelsea with goals from Samir Nasri and Sergio Aguero. But it is Carlos Tevez who leads the scoring charts for City this season, and is the top scorer in this competition for the blues with five goals. Goals have been hard to come by this year for City though, and this hasn't been helped with the injuries to Aguero and playmaker David Silva. City will be strong favourites to win the final but these two met just a few weeks ago in the league where City scraped a 1-0 home win. Second choice goalkeeper Costel Pantilimon has played in every round of the competition this season conceding just the once and Mancini is likely to keep faith with him by using him this weekend. The Romanian was a star performer in the semi final against Chelsea making a number of good saves.

One to watch: Carlos Tevez
Argentinian striker Carlos Tevez has been one of the stand out players for City this season. With 17 goals this season he leads the goalscoring charts for the club. His goal was enough to separate City and Wigan when they met a few weeks ago at the Etihad.  The forward has excellent vision and although he is well known to play up front, he is more than capable to drop off and create chances as an attacking midfielder. Tevez expressed his desire to leave at the end of the season recently to Argentinian TV, and a win on Saturday maybe the perfect send off for him.

Wigan Athletic:
picture: gettyimages
The Lactics are in yet another relegation battle this season. Despite this, Roberto Martinez's side have had quite a run in this year's competition which included a 3-0 away win at Everton. It was Millwall who Wigan defeated in the semi final with the Premier League side winning comfortably 2-0 with goals from Arouna Kone and Callum McManaman. It is the latter though that has gathered attention this season both good and bad. The youngster has been in fine form this season and has three goals in this season's FA Cup. As well as Millwall, the winger scored against Huddersfield and Everton and is very likely to be in the starting eleven at the weekend. The final has come at a very busy time for the Lancashire club as they play three games in a week. With victory over West Brom at the weekend, they host Swansea mid week before making the journey to Wembley on Saturday. Martinez will be desperate to avoid repeating Birmingham City, who in 2011, won the Carling Cup and then were relegated in the same season.

One to watch: Shaun Maloney
Scottish playmaker Maloney has been one of the star performers for Wigan this season without a doubt. The Scotsman has been involved in several key moments for them this season including a stand out performance in the recent away win at West Brom. His last minute free kick against QPR may also prove vital if Wigan are to stay up this season. Maloney's good form this season may see him leave at the end of the season with boss Martinez resigning to the fact this is very possible. His quick feet and pace is a pain for defenders and alongside his excellent set pieces, Maloney will have to be on top of his game if Wigan are to pull off a shock this Saturday.

Prediction: Manchester City 3-1 Wigan Athletic