Wigan are the form side in the Championship and Jack Critchley is backing them to heap yet more misery on relegation-threatened Stoke City on Tuesday night...
"Paul Cook's men have now taken 16 points from a possible 18, which has helped move them five points clear of safety"
Stoke to suffer second successive defeat
Wigan [2.82] v Stoke [2.92]; The Draw [3.15]
Wigan's outstanding run of form continued at the weekend with a fairly comfortable 2-0 success over Lancashire rivals Blackburn. Paul Cook's men have now taken 16 points from a possible 18, which has helped move them five points clear of safety. Although their place in the division next year is not yet guaranteed, their Championship status looks on fairly safe ground at this moment in time. A victory on Tuesday night would take them onto 50 points, just two shy of the total which kept them in the second tier last season.
Their recent success has been built on rock-solid foundations and they now haven't been breached in over 540 minutes of Championship football. Paul Cook praised his side's never-say-die attitude following their latest victory, and with the players willing to put their bodies on the line for the club, it is highly unlikely that any of the squad will be accused of a lack of commitment in the coming weeks. Even when they are mathematically safe from the drop, the Scouser is unlikely to allow them to give anything less than 100%.
The former Chesterfield boss has previously spoken of his disdain for playing games behind-closed-doors, but the Latics continued where they left off at the weekend, and the lack of fans didn't seem to affect any of the players. With a 7-6-6 record at the DW this season, they've been solid enough on their own patch, and they are unbeaten in five of their last six at this stadium.
Despite some second tier sides showing visible fatigue following the restart, Cook has opted to maintain the same XI for both matches, and only used three subs at the weekend. Even with the return of Gavin Massey and Gary Roberts, he may opt for minimal interference once again on Tuesday night.
Stoke's hopes of retaining their Championship status were dealt a significant blow as the Potters were downed by a Neil Warnock-inspired performance by relegation rivals Middlesbrough. Michael O'Neill has certainly improved their performances in Staffordshire since his arrival, however, he has done little to address their shabby away form, and their problems on the road look set to continue here.
The Northern Irish boss' tactics at the weekend were questioned by some supporters and he won't be able to call upon playmaker Nick Powell, who was sent offer against the Teessiders and as a result, won't be eligible to face his former employers. The Potters have won just four times this campaign on their travels, and although they've avoided defeat in their last three, they've lost six of their 11 away games under the 50-year old's jurisdiction.
Stoke's next two fixtures are against fellow bottom-half sides and this is a must-win game for the strugglers. They have plenty of options, but their sizeable squad has counted against them at times over the last couple of seasons with a succession of managers failing to find a favoured XI. O'Neill is likely to make changes here as he searches for a response to his side's underwhelming performance at the weekend.
Wigan have picked up back-to-back 2-0 victories since the restart, and they look in superb shape. Cook's side should be able to continue their upward momentum and take a step closer to safety here. They can be backed at [2.82] on the Exchange and they look extremely backable on Tuesday night.
Goals at both ends in the West Midlands
Birmingham [2.44] v Huddersfield [3.3]; The Draw [3.2]
Prior to the three month break, Birmingham fans could be forgiven for believing that their side had done enough to retain their Championship status, however, with the bottom six staging a mini-revival, some Blues fans may now be a little worried about being dragged back into a relegation dogfight.
Pep Clotet, who is set to leave the club at the end of July, has made his side extremely hard to beat, however, they've failed to win any of their last seven outings, and despite going off at an odds-on price against freefalling Hull City at the weekend, they still only managed to come away with point.
At St Andrews, keeping clean sheets has been an issue with Birmingham's last shutout arriving on October 22 against Blackburn. There have been some memorable games at this stadium over the last six months with Leeds' 5-4 victory among the highlights. West Brom and Wigan both came away with 3-2 victories whilst inconsistent travellers Reading and Sheffield Wednesday each notched three times at this ground.
Brum were far too open at the weekend against a side who had previously drawn three blanks in their last four outings and they will need to make a faster start on Wednesday evening. The introduction of Jeremie Bela certainly enabled the hosts to get further up the field, and the Frenchman may be given the nod from the start this time around.
Huddersfield suffered a potentially damaging defeat on Sunday as they were handsomely beaten by Nottingham Forest. The Tricky Trees didn't play particularly well, yet still managed to notch three times and that must be a huge concern for Danny Cowley. The former Lincoln boss saw his side drop in the bottom three, and fans will be expecting a response on Wednesday night.
The Terriers defence was carved open on a regular basis by the East Midlands outfit, and that could be good news for Scott Hogan and Lukas Jutkiewicz. The visitors have the third worst away record in the division, yet they rarely draw a blank on the road. They've found the net in six of their last seven and will surely fancy their chances of testing the error-prone Lee Camp.
Four of the last five meetings between these sides have seen both teams hit the target, and on current form, it's hard to trust either of them to keep a clean sheet. Both Teams to Score? Yes is available at 20/23 on the Sportsbook and is certainly worth backing in this teatime kick-off.
Baggies to bounce back in South Yorkshire
Sheffield Wednesday [4.1] v West Brom [2.04]; The Draw [3.5]
West Brom remain in control of their own destiny this season despite stuttering over the last couple of weeks. The Baggies are yet to find the net since returning to action, however, this looks like a decent chance to get back to winning ways.
WBA have won the shot count in each of their last two encounters, yet they were unable to find a way past a resolute Brentford back-line on Friday night. Bees boss Thomas Frank described them as an 'unbelievably good side', and despite failing to register at Griffin Park, they created plenty of opportunities throughout the 90 minutes.
Slaven Bilic's men have the best away record in the division and have conceded just 15 times on their travels so far. They've shipped just two goals in their last five matches away from the Hawthorns, and they are likely to make it difficult for Sheffield Wednesday here.
The Owls have returned with four points from a possible six and that has helped eased their relegation worries for the time being. Connor Wickham has scored two in two, with the on loan striker taking advantage of some extremely generous defending on Sunday afternoon. However, despite their upturn in fortunes, the South Yorkshire side struggle to score goals at home and have netted just three times in their last five matches at this venue.
It's hard to imagine the powerful forward being gifted anywhere near as much time and space on Wednesday night and if the visitors can mark him out of the game, the Hillsborough side could struggle to create too many clearcut opportunities.
High-flying West Brom are unlikely to draw three consecutive blanks and they should be able to get their automatic promotion mission back on track here. WBA can be backed at [2.04] on the Exchange and are worth backing to take all three points at Hillsborough.
You can follow Jack Critchley on Twitter @jcritch7
Wigan vs Stoke - Wigan Win @ [2.82] (Exchange)
Birmingham vs Huddersfield - Both Teams to Score @ 20/23 (Sportsbook)
Sheffield Wednesday vs West Brom - West Brom win @ [2.04] (Exchange)