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Leeds United at Wigan Athletic: Players to watch in the season finale

Latics’ midfield, Whites’ offence to take center stage at DW Stadium on Sunday.

Leeds United v Everton - Pre Season Friendly
Four more, Chris? Give us four.
Photo by Clint Hughes/Getty Images

Pride? Or just seeking a quick end to a season rife with disappointment? With nothing on the line for either side, that’s what Wigan Athletic and Leeds United play for on Sunday at DW Stadium.

The Latics were officially relegated to League One following their 1-0 loss at Reading over the last weekend, and as we know, Leeds are all but removed from playoff contention after their 3-3 draw to Norwich at Elland Road. That is, unless, Leeds win by 13 and Fulham lose to Sheffield Wednesday...

Looking ahead to Sunday’s matchup then, here are two players that will have the spotlight on them as the season comes to a close:

Reading v Wigan Athletic - Sky Bet Championship
Shaun MacDonald of Wigan is stretchered off after picking up an injury during the Sky Bet Championship match between Reading and Wigan Athletic at Madejski Stadium on April 29, 2017 in Reading, England.
Photo by Ben Hoskins/Getty Images

Wigan Athletic - Michael Jacobs, Midfield

In the Latics’ away loss to playoff-bound Reading, the biggest blow to relegated Wigan was the loss of former Bournemouth midfielder and Wales international Shaun MacDonald.

During a battle with George Evans, MacDonald suffered a rare double-break in the leg by snapping his fibula and tibia. Early reports suggest the injury could leave MacDonald out until 2018.

“The challenge on Shaun wasn’t a great one and the lad was probably fortunate to stay on the pitch,” said Wigan manager Graham Barrow on the team’s website.

That means the hole to fill in the Latics’ midfield will fall to Michael Jacobs. the 5-foot, 9-inch Jacobs played little factor in the offensive attack for Wigan against Reading, notching just a foul in the first half but little else.

Wigan leads only Championship cellar-dweller Rotherham in goals scored with just 39 goals on the season, so lackluster on offence might be a bit of an understatement.

Losing MacDonald is a huge blow to the already stagnant offence and any hope of Wigan mounting an offensive threat against Leeds will rest on its midfield to create chances. That means Jacobs will have to produce when he is on the pitch.

Birmingham City v Leeds United - Sky Bet Championship
Chris Wood of Leeds United celebrates scoring his second goal during the match between Birmingham City and Leeds United at St Andrews (stadium) on March 3, 2017 in Birmingham, England. | Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images
Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Leeds United — Chris Wood, Striker

It may be an obvious pick, but to suggest Chris Wood should capitalize on his recent Player of the Year honor and have a field day against Wigan is a gross understatement.

The New Zealand international leads the the team with 26 goals in the Championship this season, and going up against a Latics defence that has given up 56 goals could make for a very good afternoon for not just Wood, but the entire offensive lineup for Garry Monk’s crew as well.

It was Wood that put Leeds on the board in first-half stoppage time against Norwich. As the Whites were down 3-0, Wood dropped in a pass from Stuart Dallas before halftime. Kyle Bartley and Pablo Hernandez capped a scoring run that saw Leeds pull even, but no better.

“To be a proper player and a proper team, you have to have the mentality that we had in the second half, for the full 90 minutes, especially when you are fighting for something so important,” Monk said on the team’s website following the tie.

So, while it might be pride on the line at DW Stadium, the Whites have an opportunity to work through a weakened Latics’ defence to pick up three points and, more importantly, momentum heading into the off-season.

Or why not four goals, Chris? Make it 30. MOT.