Wigan v Pompey
It is almost inevitable that tonight will be a case of 'after the lord mayors show' and all that, well on-the-field at least, in the stands the numbers might be few but it WILL be party time, big time party time.
Somehow we will patch together a side, which could well include several youngsters - and why not? The worse the premier league can do is throw a fine at us, although in all fairness do we really have that options available to us anyway, and with a cup final coming up why should we do them any favours or take any risks?
Whilst it would be easy to throw all the kids in, and there is a good chance that Joel Ward, Lenny Sowah and Matty Ritchie will all play a part and Marlon Pack, who earned some rave reviews from loan spells this season, 'could' take a place on the bench at least, as Avram Grant keeps saying we 'owe football' the chances are, even with a cup final to prepare for, he will resist this.
I am really disappointed that it is basically not physically possible for me to get to this game - I have looked into various options but it just cannot be done! I will be even more disappointed come 10pm tonight methinks as it is almost 100% certain that Ritchie will play a part and I have waited a couple of years to see him make his debut...
Wigan Team News:
Gary Caldwell - suspension - is out, other than that it 'seems' a pretty full strength squad to select from, although Emmerson Boyce and Hendry Thomas are both 'doubtful.'
I think I read somewhere that Titus Bramble, once a Pompey target, is going to play his 100th game for Wigan?
Player to watch: Charles N'Zogbia
Baz from Vital Wigan rates him, and Hugo Rodallega highly, and to be fair Insomnia - as Joe Kinnear called him - is not a bad little footballer. So, the guy is likely to give whichever fullback he faces a bit of a roasting...but do we care!? Unless it is Sowah I am not so sure they will either in many ways!
Pompey Team News:
Anthony Vanden Borre - suspension - will return so he has a chance to press home his claims for inclusion in the cup final squad, having missed the semi. Another that did this was Jamie Ashdown and 'word on the street' is that he will come in for David James who will be rested with Liam O'Brien named as the back-up?
Nadir Belhadj - hamstring, Tal Ben-Haim - groin, Aruna Dindane - contract dispute, The Herminator - Achilles and Danny Webber - knee - are all out, or should be for starters with several others 'doubtful' following Sunday's excursions. These being Kevin-Prince Boateng, Papa Bouba Diop, Hassan Yebda, Tommy Smith and John Utaka, who will all do well to feature by all accounts? Smith missing out would 'surprise' me though as I thought he was just a protective mask away from playing? Aaron Mokoena 'should' be ok, but will he be risked - who would have thought we would ever think of Mokoena that way, in a positive sense anyway!
Joel Ward has a chance of making his league debut, and I would do it and not just out of necessity, I think the kid looks a decent bet and is worth a new deal for next season. Matty Ritchie is also banging hard on the door to start, so again why not? Lenny Sowah has already made his league bow and the 17-year-old 'could' get another chance. Marlon Pack is 'probably' the biggest outsider to come in, although a place on the bench is highly probable.
Player to watch: I dunno...
Lets face it we have little clues as to who will actually play, and as for those that do how much will they really be 'playing' with a cup final to save themselves for? My biggest concern is that the easier the players take it the more likely the risk is you will pick up an injury as going in half hearted for challenges, and not training properly is as likely to get you injured as anything...
Hopefully the kids, Ward, Sowah, Ritchie and even Pack do get a chance and if they do they do themselves proud - I am sure they WILL be proud to play too!
Although I am sure we can count on Jamie O'Hara to give it his all, right? And he will play, right?
Match Facts & Stats
It is unlikely to happen, in all honesty - well depending on what Wigan turns up really - but we ARE chasing another double after spanking them 4-0 at Fratton. We have only completed a double over Burnley this season so Wigan, apart from Wolves, are the only other side we can do this against.
We have beaten Wigan in 4 of the 7 away meetings we have had with them including the famous 2-1 win in our great escape season, although we lost 1-0 in the final game of last season.
An interesting fact, which I did not know, it 'the side that has won the first league meeting has gone on to complete the double in each of the last two seasons.' Wigan last season and us the season before.
Of course I care about this game, there is NO SUCH THING as a meaningless match but in all honesty I am not bothered that much by the result. Yep, it would be good to take some momentum into the final, and I have often thought that you cannot ease off and just turn up for the main even - but do you know what? I reckon we can do exactly that, so even if we get spanked in everyone of our remaining games it will make no difference to the outcome of the final!
Either way, hedge your bets in the predictions league here.