Latics’ start to the season has had a distinctly North Eastern flavour to it. The home wins against Boro and Sunderland got things off to a good start and this weekend Chris Hutchings takes his team up to Newcastle looking to get things back on track following the mid week cup defeat to Hull. Not that we’re reading too much into that game, Tuesday’s eleven were well short of being the first team and it seems that few, if any, of them made the manager’s selection for Saturday any harder.
That means there are only three possible question marks over who will line up at St James’ with only one of those written in ink.
Sibierski’s substitution at West Ham has put him on the ‘in doubt’ list, but much has been made of his withdrawal being more precaution than necessity and it seems likely that he’ll be fit. If not, the obvious replacement would be Aghahowa but Folan’s selection at Everton suggests that Hutchings sees him as a better option away from home.
Of course, Camara’s appearance in the Hull game could mean that he’s ready to return to the fold, but, with deadline day still to come, he might not even be a Latics player on Saturday.
No matter what deals are done before then it seems likely that Kilbane will continue at left back. Placente may be on the verge of signing but the chances of him being match fit are slim. Boyce is the other option, but the 75 minute turn mid-week leaves him in the same position as any new signing.
The only other potential change is in the middle of the park. Michael Brown is probably ready for some first team action however Scharner’s goal scoring antics may be enough to keep his place for this one. Landzaat’s place seems less at risk, the Dutchman already looking much improved on last season.
So it looks very much like same again for Latics as they face their sternest test thus far. Newcastle have got off to a steady start, and whilst fans may not be too ecstatic over the results, Big Sam’s tactics look to be taking hold and if nothing else they will be organised and physical.
One player with a particular axe to grind will be Titus Bramble. The Geordies’ views on him were hardly kind and he will be looking to prove them wrong. With Viduka, Martins and Owen all looking to prove they are the best option the centre half will have a job on his hands, but his form so far has been good and long may it continue.
After the Sunderland game, I set a target of getting something from one of the two away games that followed. Seven points from the first five would present a good start and set us up well heading into the first international break. Obviously, we got the point at West Ham and, for me; anything we get on Saturday is a bonus.
The team won’t see it that way though and at the very least will be looking not to lose this one. My head is telling me not to stick my neck out, but the wave of optimism may finally be getting to me as my gut reaction is that we’ll be happy bunnies come Saturday tea-time.
p.s. The above was written on Wednesday and we now know for certain that Folan is out of the running it seems that Marcus Bent has gone straight into the squad. If Sibierski’s not fit then I may just have to have a rethink on my rash prediction.
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