We don't have any local teams left in the Premier League, the closest thing that Wigan now have to a local derby could be on of the two trips we make into Liverpool (Everton). Yet there are teams that across the country, we Wigan fans look forward to playing in the hope of beating them. One such team, was West Ham United. It may not be a fierce rivalry like the Glasgow derby, but its better than nothing.
Another such clash for me, is this weekends forth coming match against Sunderland. It is not that I don't like Sunderland, just there is a bit on amenity between the two sides. That was mainly down to the Steven Bruce link, the man who left us quicker than you could say, 'Harrods' maybe. Yet that is all behind the two clubs, as the last game that Steve Bruce saw was a 2-1 defeat against Wigan.
Yet the enjoyment of playing a team that you don't like, and want to beat is always fun. Now under Martin O'Neil, Sunderland are a new look team with a lot more youth and vigour than they had under Steve Bruce. Yet so far this season, they only have four draws to their name. Why?
This is made even more of a wonder, when you take into context their signings of Steven Flechter and Adam Johnson. Both players have stamped their mark on the team, and Steven Fletcher has continued to keep on scoring, much like he did more last season for the relegated Wolves.
Fletcher isn't their only attacking option. Their will be plenty of other talent on display, playing behind the lone striker. Stephane Sessegnon, Adam Johnson and James McCleary will all be looking to get at the Wigan defense with their mix of pace, power and trickery on the ball.
To me this is one of the most volatile attacking teams we will play this season. You can't be sure as to how they will play, and what they will do on the ball. Both winger in Johnson and McCleary can use both their left and right feet, and like to run at full backs to get plenty of crosses into the box.
Two problems we well face. One we have no full-back and will lose the width that the wing-backs give us as they have to pull back to help defend. The second problem is the one I fear most, we are coming up against a very good header of the ball in Steven Fletcher, none of the three centre backs can really head well, and their is no sign of an Antolin Alcaraz return.
So how about the other end of the pitch for Sunderland? Well they will likely be weaker than going forward. The one area they have struggled in this season, is in their central midfield. They have looked little weight. and a passing side 'should' find it easy to play around them. This is made even more apparent with Sunderland not having defensive midfielder Lee Cattermole, although that could be a good thing for Sunderland.
Our midfield three of Shaun Maloney, James McCarthy and James McArthur (if he starts, which he most certainly should) should be able to out pass and out muscle anyone who will be playing centrally. We won't be looking for width in this game, looking to go direct and beat Sunderland down the middle will be the aim to counter balance their dominance in the wider areas.
The other player we will again be missing come the weekend is Franco Di Santo. Thier is no new news on the player who was Wigan's top scorer before he missed the last two games. Now a confident Mauro Boselli and Arouna Kone look likely to make the starting partnership. The two players play very difffrent forward roles and could have the same well balanced partnership that Kone and Di Santo have had.
Its is going to be a hard fought game, between two very even sides. I could see either of us winning it really. Yet our away form seems to stake up well, and with the new found confidence that the reserves have, why shouldn't that move into the first team?
Changes are likely to the Wigan side, as we look to get our second in of the season.