For the third time this season Bolton take on Macclesfield in what may be a terrifying glimpse into the future if the Wanderers relegation fears aren’t eased in the coming weeks. For now, however, encounters against our lower league friends are restricted to the cup competitions. The latest encounter in this trilogy takes place at the Reebok Stadium on Tuesday evening as the teams replay their keenly contested FA Cup Third Round match that took place ten days ago. It is no surprise that Bolton’s Premier League status makes them favourites with Betfair Premier League Betting but on closer inspection the tie is likely to be much closer than the bookmakers suggest.
You only have to look at the two previous encounters the teams have played out so far to realise that this game is very much in the balance. Back in August the teams met at the Reebok in the second round of the Carling Cup and for a substantial period of that game Macc led relatively comfortably as the Wanderers huffed and puffed before scraping through into the next round.
Whilst this game in August made a mild mockery of the clubs’ respective league positions, the game at the Moss Rose ten days ago made it impossible to judge which team were from the so-called best league in the world and which were from the lower reaches of the league basement.
Again Macclesfield led via a truly brilliant goal by hitherto unheralded midfielder Arnaud Mendy, before Bolton forced a barely deserved replay through David Wheater’s late header.
All of this suggests that the game on Tuesday evening will be close again and it is likely that Owen Coyle’s team selection will add to the feeling that an upset could be in the offing. In the first game Coyle shuffled his pack to give a number of under-performing players the chance to put in a morale boosting performance thereby giving him more options for the team in the crucial run-in.
The fact they failed to achieve this is unlikely to stop the Bolton manager picking a smilar line-up again and it is hard to blame him for doing so. Quite simply the cup has to take a back-seat for Bolton as the club battle to maintain their cherished Premier League status. Bolton can’t risk one of their key players getting injured in this sort of game meaning Macclesfield are likely to be up against a shadow Bolton XI and judging by the struggles of the first XI, it doesn’t say much for the quality of player that will be pulling on a Bolton shirt on Tuesday.
But whilst Bolton are likely to be focused on other priorities, they should still have enough to beat a team from the bottom half of League 2 and anyone who has visited the BBC Sport Website to look at the highlights from the Macclesfield v. Torquay game on Saturday would have seen a team that looked poor and should provide fairly easy pickings for even the most unheralded of Premier League player.
With the cup you just never know and if the last two games of the trilogy are anything to go by, the Wanderers could find egg covering their faces by the time the final whistle blows at the Reebok.