Despite being unbeaten in the league so far, the growing glamour for the head of Alex McLeish doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. 6 games and 8 points have been put on the board since the former Birmingham man arrived at Villa Park, however despite the solid start, 5 of which have been draws, McLeish is having a hard time winning over a home crowd that not so long ago had aspirations of a Martin O’Neill delivered crown or more realistically, Champions league football.
McLeish’s task will not be made any easier this weekend when he welcomes the man who virtually handed him his job, Roberto Martinez. The Wigan man, whose eye for young talent coupled with a penchant for attractive football added to his growing resume when he turned down the Villa post claiming his loyalty to Wigan owner Dave Whelan meant he didn’t want to be considered for the job.
The fact that Wigan have never lost at Villa Park in the league means that by 5pm tomorrow McLeish could clinging even more tightly to his job however there would be a perfect time to end that jinx as Martinez side have lost their last three and after a promising start that saw two draws and a win are in danger of another season of struggle.
After drawing with newly promoted sides Norwich and Swansea and beating a pre Tony Fernandes QPR, a start that on paper looked the easiest of all the clubs, Wigan came crashing down to earth losing to Man City, Everton and Spurs with the concession of 9 goals.
That run of defeats includes a Carling cup exit at the hands of Crystal Palace and the bright start of August has slowly faded. The loss of Hugo Rodallega cannot be underestimated, especially as his partnership with the improving Franco Di Santo looked a huge positive for Wigan in the opening games
However the Colombian looks set for a spot on the sidelines as he bids to over a knee injury, also missing is Antolin Alcaraz who has a thigh strain while Steve Gohouri is suspended having been sent off against Tottenham last week.
The loss of Alcaraz and Gohouri is somewhat offset by the return of Emmerson Boyce is close to a recall having recovered from the hamstring problem which has kept him out of the last two league matches.
Aston Villa meanwhile will have been disappointed to have dropped two points so late against QPR last Sunday however they have received a boost ahead of this clash with the news that on-loan Tottenham midfielder Jermaine Jenas is available and could be finally set to make his debut having recovering from a thigh problem while strikers Darren Bent (groin) and Emile Heskey (hamstring) are also in contention.
James Collins has emerged as a doubt after taking a knock to the ankle in the 1-1 with QPR and Villa boss Alex McLeish will give a late fitness test to defender before finalising his line up however Carlos Cuellar, Chris Herd and Eric Lichaj all miss out
Villa (from): Given, Hutton, Collins, Dunne, Warnock, Jenas, Petrov, Delph, N’Zogbia, Ireland, Bannan, Agbonlahor, Bent, Heskey, Albrighton, Weimann, Given, Delfouneso, Beye, Lowry, Gardner, Clark.
Wigan (from): Al Habsi, Caldwell, Figueroa, Boyce, Lopez, Watson, Diame, Moses, Gomez, Di Santo, Jones, Stam, Van Aanholt, McArthur, McCarthy, Thomas, Sammon, Maloney, Crusat, McManaman, Kirkland.