Manchester City travel to face neighbors Wigan Athletic in the fifth match of the 2010-11 Premier League campaign. It is the third straight league game in which City must pick up all three points, and especially so considering they've failed in each of the previous two attempts - away to Sunderland and home to Blackburn. If City consider themselves Champions League (or even title) contenders - and they should - then this match must be put in the bag early.
Wigan have a few quality players, such as Charles N'Zogbia and Hugo Rodagella, and have already beaten Spurs at White Hart Lane. That said, the positives pretty much end there. They were thoroughly thrashed by league newcomers Blackpool at home and then by Chelsea, again at home. With one of the worst defenses in the Premier League, Wigan are highly susceptible to an organized attack. If Manchester City can continue the form that saw them cut apart Red Bull Salzburg in Austria, then the match will be over fairly quickly.
City may be without the services of Emmanuel Adebayor again, who missed the Europa League opener with a leg injury. Mario Balotelli and Aleksandr Kolarov are ruled out, while there has been no word on Jerome Boateng, who is yet to make his competitive debut for the Blues. Joleon Lescott is also injured, but that was offset by the return of English international Wayne Bridge who performed well against Salzburg.
Expect a few changes in the starting XI for Roberto Mancini, namely the reinsertion of James Milner and Adam Johnson, who are both tailor-made for the Premier League. I'm not sure if Mancini is willing to play Milner, Johnson, and David Silva at the same time, but with Chelsea upcoming its important that Silva continue to get acclimated. He played on Thursday, though, so in all likelihood he will begin on the bench.
You have to think that Joe Hart will continue his run in goal, and despite the error against Blackburn Hart has been rather superhuman. Expect Shay Given, however, to get his first start of the year against West Bromwich Albion in the Carling Cup on Wednesday of next week.
In conclusion, all signs point to a City victory - but so did the Sunderland and Blackburn matches. An early goal will be paramount to success, and the Blues can not afford to play from behind as they did against Rovers. Wigan 'boast' by far the weakest defense Manchester City have faced this year. I was encouraged by the Europa League form City displayed, and expect a 3-0 victory over the Latics at DW Stadium.