Wigan Athletic’s hopes of an immediate return to the Premier League were dealt a blow on Tuesday evening, but their FA Cup dream remains alive and kicking.
It has been a hectic campaign for the Latics, who have been forced to balance their promotion bid with the Capital One Cup, a Europa League run and, of course, another mammoth FA Cup effort.
A laboured performance, and 1-0 loss, against a struggling Millwall outfit seemed to be indicative of the busy schedule as Uwe Rosler’s men played their fourth game in the space of 11 days.
Not that it has affected the German’s confidence as they prepare to take on top-flight outfit Arsenal.
“My players are used to playing against Premier League sides and they are missing that this season. For them it was always like ‘come on, I can still do it’ and here we are in the semis,” Rosler said.
“We’ve made our supporters proud and we’re going to Wembley: we can’t lose, we only can win.”
Wigan remain in the play-off positions by six points, but Rosler may begin to start looking over his shoulder as Brighton, Ipswich and Bournemouth all prepare to pounce with just six games remaining.
The loss is a bitter pill to swallow for Wigan, who now have tricky fixtures against fellow promotion hopefuls Reading and already-promoted Burnley on the horizon.
However, thoughts of a return to the promised land of the Premier League are temporarily on hold as the Latics prepare for a trip to Wembley to defend their FA Cup crown.
While Wigan will remain the rank outsiders for Saturday’s semi-final clash against Arsenal, it is difficult to completely disregard the chances of the Championship side.
Arsenal are a side in turmoil – confidence is rock-bottom and all of the pressure is on Arsene Wenger’s side to win the competition after a disappointing slide in the league.
Indeed, Arsenal have fallen out of the picture in the title race, going from league leaders to the sobering prospect of failing to qualify for the Champions League for the first time in 16 years.
In contrast, Wigan have flourished since Rosler took charge in December last year.
Owner Dave Whelan will hope his appointment can follow in the footsteps of Roberto Martinez and secure the FA Cup trophy for the second successive season.
It has been a testing Cup run for the Latics, who have already seen off Premier League sides in the shape of Crystal Palace, Cardiff City, and most notably, Manchester City for the second season in a row.
It has been a monumental effort to get into a position where league and Cup success remain on the cards.
However, it remains to be seen whether Wigan have enough left in the tank to muster one final push and crown a season that has promised so much.
Main image courtesy of Manchester City FC via YouTube, with thanks.