Weakened Wolves will suffer Warriors' wrath
Wigan Warriors and Warrington Wolves second meeting in a week, this time in the Super League, kicks off at 20:00 live on Sky Sports tonight.
Following their defeat in last Saturday's Challenge Cup semi-final, Brian Noble's Wigan will be smarting. They were favourites for the game, second favourites behind St Helens to win the cup, but instead it is Warrington who will be making their first appearance at Wembley since they lost to Wigan in the 1990 final.
Wigan are again favourites for the match, 1/6 to win in 80 Minutes this time in contrast to the 4/6 available last week. That of course means that Warrington are a healthy 7/2 to inflict a Super League double for this season over Wigan.
The Wolves coach, Tony Smith, will have to ensure what's left of his squad don't already have their heads at Wembley or they could be in danger of throwing their Super League play-off chances away. Warrington sit in the eighth and final play-off spot ahead of two other teams on points difference alone. A defeat by more than eight points will put the Harlequins above them even before they play Salford on Saturday.
So they need to keep it tight, and they can do despite the distractions of Wembley. Tony Smith is one of the best coaches around and will not fail to have his players focused - that's if he can find enough players to put on the park. Warrington could be without up to six of last week's line-up.
Chris Hicks, Matt King, Jon Clarke, Garreth Carvell and Ben Harrison are all out of the squad, some of them having carried injuries prior to their semi-final heroics. Chris Riley may also miss out if he doesn't not pass a head test. The Wolves are a depleted team without these players but their understudies will be keen to prove themselves now that a spot in the Wembley squad may be up for grabs.
Winger Kevin Penny has been recalled from loan at Widnes, along with Steve Pickersgill, and should have no problem out-pacing Amos Roberts or Pat Richards down Wigan's flanks given the chance. He is Even Money to score a try, 14/1 to score the first.
The main handicap gives Warrington a 12-point headstart which seems a little too big given this season's results between the two sides. Wigan will play better than last week, particularly in the first half where they gave the Wolves too much of a lead to come back at, but often lack the bite to go on an give a team a St Helens or Leeds-style thumping.
The Warriors have injury problems of their own. Phil Bailey becomes the third player out for the season. Darrell Goulding was injured against St Helens a fortnight ago and now Shaun Ainscough is out with a damaged wrist. This means Wigan fans will have to endure Amos Roberts presence who could contribute towards at least a couple of Warrington scores and keep the game close.
Wigan to win by 1 to 12 points, in the Dozen Winning Margins market, seems a fair bet at 2/1. If you can see Warrington repeating their 39-26 shock defeat of last week there is 22/1 available that the Wolves win by 11-15 points.
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