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Following last Saturday’s 0-0 draw against Blackpool at Bloomfield Road, we’re back home tomorrow with the visit of Wigan Athletic who, like our last two league opponents, are battling to stay in the Championship.

When we played at the DW Stadium back in August, Wigan were adjusting to life in the Championship having won the League One title last season with 92 points under the management of Leam Richardson. They’d made a decent enough start to the season and were unbeaten. We beat them 5-1 but it was their only defeat in their opening eight games and, at that time, they sat just one point behind us and with a game in hand.

Despite not being able to continue with such good results, Wigan rewarded Richardson with a new three-year contract in October. Chairman Talal Hammad revealed that it was following the excellent leadership that he had shown throughout his tenure at the DW Stadium.

Fifteen days later, they astonishingly dispensed with his services and eventually appointed Kolo Touré as his replacement. That didn’t work out as planned with Touré sacked after nine games with none of them won. Shaun Maloney, a former Wigan player and well known to Vincent Kompany while he was a coach with the Belgian national side, has taken over and their performances have been much improved although a 1-0 home win against Huddersfield is his only victory alongside four draws and just two defeats, both on the road at Preston (1-2) and West Brom (0-1).

They are currently third from bottom of the table and have one point more than Blackpool and Huddersfield although both have a game in hand. Cardiff are the closest to them looking up but they are six points ahead as we go into the final eleven games of the season.

Wigan are one of five Championship teams to have currently won more away games than home games. Their three most recent wins have come at home against Blackburn, Blackpool and Huddersfield but they won four and drew one of their first five away games, the wins coming at Birmingham, Luton, Huddersfield and Rotherham in successive games. Since they’ve recorded five draws and seven defeats on the road.

If there’s a player to keep an eye on then it’s very much former Claret Michael Keane’s twin brother Will. He scored for Preston when they won here in December 2015 and netted Wigan’s goal from the penalty spot in our win there. He’s now scored ten goals for them this season. The only other player with more than two league goals is Nathan Broadhead. He was on loan from Everton but was recalled in January ahead of a permanent move to Ipswich.

Wigan themselves were busy in the January window, bringing in six new players including Arsenal pair Miguel Azeez and Omark Rekil on loan.

Manager Maloney said today: “It’s a big challenge against Burnley, and it’s one that we have to meet from the first to the last whistle. I think they are where they are in the league table for a reason. I think Vincent Kompany has done a fantastic job, and they do both sides of the game well. I think what’s been the most impressive is how aggressive they are out of possession. They stop teams from creating chances against them, and then when they go and attack, they attack in numbers with talented wide players.”

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Maloney confirmed that Jack Whatmough won’t play having suffered a hamstring injury in the warm up prior to the West Brom game. There was better news for him with Callum Lang (pictured above) back available while Christ Tiéhi, injured at West Brom, will be given to the last moment to prove his fitness.

Wigan’s team in that most recent game at West Brom included former Burnley full back Tendayi Darikwa and they lined up: Ben Amos, Charlie Hughes, Omar Rekik, Ryan Nyambe, Tendayi Darikwa, Max Power, Christ Tiéhi, James McClean, Will Keane, Danel Sinani, Ashley Fletcher. Subs: Jamie Jones, Tom Pearce, Tom Naylor, Joe Bennett, Josh Magennis, Steven Caulker, Thelo Aasgaard.

We return home where last time out in the league we beat Huddersfield 4-0. Since, goals have proved to be a little harder to come by. Connor Roberts, who scored the second against Huddersfield, netted the late, and only, goal to beat Fleetwood in the FA Cup and last Saturday at Blackpool we drew a blank in the league for only the second time all season.

That draw came after Sheffield United’s defeat at Blackburn although they did win at Reading in midweek. That’s left them ten points behind us with eleven games remaining. Our lead over third place Middlesbrough is a further seven points and the question now seems to be when promotion will be confirmed rather than if it will.

We are forever doing calculations but the worst of all worst scenarios would see Middlesbrough win their final eleven games to take them to 93 points. That would leave us requiring seventeen points from the ten games other than the trip to Middlesbrough. That’s way below our average points per game to date and more than achievable. Even so, how likely is it that Middlesbrough will come close to winning all of their remaining games?

Those three recent games against Huddersfield, Fleetwood and Blackpool referred to saw Jordan Beyer return to the centre of the defence having missed the games at Luton and Millwall having sustained an injury that forced him off before half time at Watford. We’ve kept clean sheets in all of them, two playing alongside Hjalmar Ekdal and the other, in the cup, with Ameen Al-Dakhil in the side.

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The German defender wasn’t at Burnley when we won at Wigan; he arrived five days later on loan from Borussia Mönchengladbach and made his debut as a substitute in the 1-1 draw at Preston for the injured Charlie Taylor before getting his first start four days later in a 2-1 home win against Bristol City.

He’s now made 22 league appearances for us with a further four games in the cups and he’s looking forward to being back on the Turf again tomorrow. “Playing in front of our fans at Turf Moor is such a special feeling,” he said. “When we’re at home, I’m always delighted. I always look forward to it and the fans always have our back.”

He added: “Wigan Athletic are fighting to stay in the Championship at the moment. So we know it’s going to be really tough. They’ll throw everything they have to try and beat us, but it’s a home game for us and with the fans behind us, pushing us all the way, we will do everything we can to win the game.”

There was some good news this week with Vincent Kompany reporting that Taylor Harwood-Bellis, Beyer’s partner at the back until he sustained an injury in the FA Cup win at Bournemouth nine weeks ago, is back in training although I don’t think it’s very likely we’ll see him back on the pitch for a while yet.

Manuel Benson, out for seven weeks, Jay Rodriguez, ruled out for just one week less, are also back in training with the manager having to make a decision whether one or both of them can return this side of the international break.

The only bad news is the injury that will keep Josh Brownhill out for a while but we do have Ian Maatsen fit again after missing the Fleetwood and Blackpool games with the shoulder injury that saw him stretchered off in the Huddersfield win.

The team at Blackpool last week was: Arijanet Muric, Connor Roberts, Hjalmar Ekdal, Jordan Beyer, Vitinho, Josh Cullen, Josh Brownhill, Nathan Tella, Jóhann Berg Guðmundsson, Anass Zaroury, Ashley Barnes. Subs: Bailey Peacock-Farrell, Charlie Taylor, Jack Cork, Scott Twine, Michael Obafemi, Lyle Foster, Halil Dervişoğlu.




It was a very special day when Wigan last played at the Turf. They’ve not been regular visitors over the years and tomorrow will be just their eleventh league game here.

This last visit came on Easter Monday, 21st April 2014. We’d won at Blackpool on Good Friday to leave us on the brink of clinching promotion to the Premier League. Ahead of the game, we sat in second place in the table with an eight point lead over Derby with three games to play. We also had a marginally better goal difference. We knew a draw would probably be enough and that a win would ensure promotion.

With Derby beating Barnsley, we maintained that eight point advantage with a 2-0 win on a day when any nerves were cast away on the pitch as the players turned in a superb performance against Uwe Rösler’s Wigan.

It was a season when, as the games got tougher, the performances seem to get even better. This was such an occasion and I don’t think anyone there will ever forget the opening goal midway through the first half. It was Ashley Barnes’ first Turf Moor goal and his finish, from a Dean Marney cross, ended a brilliant move of one touch football.

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When Scott Arfield was fouled down the left hand side just a few minutes before half time, the game was over with Michael Kightly scoring from the free kick to add to his winner at Blackpool. We nearly had a third almost immediately afterwards only for Ali Al-Habsi to save well from Ben Mee.

At no point did we ever look as though we’d allow Wigan back into the game in the second half but we could have extended the lead with Danny Ings hitting the post and Al-Habsi keeping out a Barnes blockbuster.

2-0 it was, Burnley had been promoted to the Premier League.

The teams were;

Burnley: Tom Heaton, Kieran Trippier (Chris Baird 78), Michael Duff, Jason Shackell, Ben Mee, Scott Arfield, Dean Marney, David Jones, Michael Kightly, Danny Ings, Ashley Barnes. Subs not used: Alex Cisak, Kevin Long, David Edgar, Ross Wallace, Junior Stanislas, Keith Treacy.

Wigan: Ali Al-Habsi, James Perch, Emmerson Boyce, Leon Barnett, Stephen Crainey (Rob Kiernan ht), Jack Collison, James McArthur, Jordi Gómez (Callum McManaman ht), James McClean (Nicky Maynard 77), Marc-Antoine Fortuné, Jean Beausejour. Subs not used: Scott Carson, Gary Caldwell, Nick Powell, Shaun Maloney.

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