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  • Millwall v Wigan, FA Cup

Underdogs eye piece of FA Cup history at Wembley

ESPN staff
April 12, 2013
Can Millwall break Wigan hearts?

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One of the most refreshing aspects of the FA Cup this season has been the evident significance of the trophy for every side left in the semi-finals. Yet, while Chelsea and Manchester City are merely looking to define their seasons, both Wigan and Milwall in the notionally less fashionable clash are hoping to alter their histories - live on ESPN UK.

Both these clubs are now tantalisingly and almost teasingly close to their first ever major trophy. Neither have ever won more than the English third tier. Yet, an impressive ability to punch well above their weights is about the only thing they share in this compelling clash of opposites.

Most obviously, there are the styles. Wigan play a proactive passing-pressing game and attack every match on their terms, while Millwall apply a much more reductive, reactive approach. Most simplistically, it is a case of adventure against aggression.

That contrast is further emphasised by the managers, with the teacher-pupil rivalry only adding another element to the game. Roberto Martinez played under Kenny Jackett for two years at Swansea between 2004 and 2006, with the two achieving promotion to that third tier together.

The Millwall boss spoke glowingly about the Spaniard in his pre-game press conference on Thursday, and said it was always obvious Martinez would become a fine manager. Jackett didn't think their relationship would lead to any advantage or disadvantage either way, though, because it was so long ago.

Back then, of course, Wigan were only rising to the Premier League while Millwall had just played in the 2004 FA Cup final, and it is the statuses of the clubs that further inverts this clash.

Whereas the Championship club will take a full allocation to Wembley, the Premier League side have had to send tickets back. It should not affect an atmosphere that is only likely to reflect the real edge to this occasion.

Millwall player to watch - Danny Shittu

Aside from the fact Millwall are likely to spend much of this game defending and therefore become dependent on the likes of Shittu, the physically imposing centre-half is one of their main attacking strengths. Jackett has already stated he will go up for corners as against Blackburn Rovers in the quarter-final replay, and his rocket long-range shooting could well catch Wigan off-guard.

Wigan player to watch - Arouna Kone

Jackett highlighted him as the most dangerous player in the Wigan side while Martinez has spoken of how rare it is for a player of Kone's quality to come to the DW Stadium. The forward has already been influential in their survival fight and is likeliest to determine affairs here.

Trivia: This is the first time in Wigan's history that they have reached the semi-finals of the FA Cup. Their only ever meeting with Millwall in the competition was in the 1934-35 third round, when the London side won 4-1.

Stats: Millwall have only conceded one goal in their five FA Cup matches this season. That, however, was to the only other Premier League opposition they have played in Aston Villa. By contrast, Wigan have failed to score in just one of their last 11 games against lower-division opposition.

Odds: Wigan (0.9), Millwall (3.5) and the draw after 90 minutes (2.6) are available on Bet365. Millwall are 11.0 to win on penalties

Prediction: Wigan to turn it on and see off Millwall by two or three goals.

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