Wigan the Value in Tight Clash
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1pt Wigan to beat Newcastle at 3/1 (General).
Newcastle v Wigan (2000 GMT)
Times are tough for Newcastle.
Last year's surprise packages are increasingly looking this season's also-rans, with some fans even expressing concerns that their side could be dragged into a battle for survival.
Indeed, following four defeats on the bounce the gap between them and the drop zone is just a couple of points.
And while it's perhaps too soon to realistically class them as relegation fodder - and indeed they're probably too good to be in among the scrap - after this they face a trip to Fulham, host a regalvanised QPR, then visit Manchester United and Arsenal before welcoming Everton.
Quite simply, things could get worse before they get better especially if they can't take care of Wigan.
I was impressed with the Latics on Wednesday night as they put in a spirited display against Manchester City, one which could've seen them edge ahead but ultimately ended in defeat.
Franco Di Santo is finally looking like the player he was supposed to be - a fact underlined by a first international cap - and Arouna Kone is a good foil for him, while Jordi Gomez showed just over a week ago that he's perfectly capable of chipping in, too.
So, with Newcastle arriving on the back of four straight defeats and without James Perch, Steven Taylor, Hatem Ben Arfa, Yohan Cabaye, Shola Ameobi and Gabriel Obertan, my inclination is to get with the visitors to some degree.
Their record in this fixture is poor, but a 4-0 victory in the reverse last season was the last time these met and the last four times they've met at St James's Park, the hosts have needed late fireworks to either salvage a point or edge to victory.
With confidence low following a 2-1 defeat at Stoke that had seen Newcastle lead into the final 10 minutes and Wigan having already managed away wins at Spurs and Southampton, I'm backing the visitors to capitalise on a mentally fragile home side and leapfrog them in the table.
It's a small stakes bet as a nod to the record Newcastle have in the fixture, the fact that their first team remains extremely competitive despite injury woes and that a packed crowd will make this a hostile atmosphere for the hosts, but it's Wigan who are playing the better football right now so they get the token vote.
Verdict: Newcastle 0 Wigan 1