Saturday's big match preview

Wigan Athletic v West Ham United Saturday, September 12, 3pm DW Stadium ROBERTO MARTINEZ didn t manage to get Swansea promoted last season but he has tried to get as many of his former charges playing in the Premier League as possible. The Spaniard, who s

Wigan Athletic v West Ham United

Saturday, September 12, 3pm

DW Stadium

ROBERTO MARTINEZ didn't manage to get Swansea promoted last season but he has tried to get as many of his former charges playing in the Premier League as possible.


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The Spaniard, who swapped south Wales for Greater Manchester, was not alone in looking at a Wigan squad shorn of its best players and catching a waft of relegation, but few would have thought that signing a gaggle of players from the Championship would have been the answer.

Antonio Valencia, Lee Cattermole and before them Emile Heskey and Wilson Palacios have been shipped out for nearly �40m and it remains to be seen whether Jordi Gomez and Jason Scotland can transfer their second tier form on to a grander stage. Worse still Martinez failed in his attempts to sign his most important player at Swansea, Ferrie Bodde.

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While question marks hang over the true quality of Wigan's squad home games against established mid-table teams like the Hammers become all the more important.

Win these encounters and you can start ticking off the progress towards the magical 40-point mark, but lose and it gets worrying.

At least in Hammers manager Gianfranco Zola, Martinez will find a kindred spirit. Both are well-liked, intelligent managers who try to play attractive, attacking football, and both, you sense, would be far happier with more funds at their disposal.

Instead, the pair will invest their time in polishing up rough diamonds - something that Wigan have done very well over the past couple of seasons.

The coaches deserve credit, as do the scouts, for making Wigan a home for Palacios, Valencia and now the outstanding left-back Maynor Figueroa, but having brought these in, how many more brilliant players can there be kicking their heels in Honduras?

And was new signing Hendry Thomas one of them?

No-one seems quite sure.

Not least West Ham, for whom the fear of the unknown should make this match far more difficult to call than their trip to Blackburn a fortnight ago.

Zola will know that Wigan will field a tall, athletic back four built around the error-prone but still underrated Titus Bramble, and a narrow, industrious midfield who work to give space for Gomez to break forward.

In Hugo Rodallega the Latics have one of the more mercurial players in the league, while Scotland is a Didier Drogba-lite, and more than a handful on his day.

That's not to say that West Ham aren't better than this lot. They should have the edge in midfield, but Zola will probably be happy with a draw.

Wigan (possible): Kirkland, Melchiot, Figueroa, Bramble, Boyce, Scharner, Thomas, N'Zogbia, Gomez, Scotland, Rodallega.

Prediction:

WIgan 2 West Ham 2

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