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As the holidays approach, Oxford United have many positives to take away from their form in League One, now unbeaten in nine consecutive domestic encounters.
Being this high in the table is a familiar feeling for Karl Robinson and his team, who have finished in the top six in each of their previous two campaigns, missing a shot at promotion in the play-off round both times.
This season their goal will be to try and claim one of those top two positions in the standings which eluded them in 2019-20 and 2020-21, and a victory on Saturday would put them right in the thick of that race to guarantee themselves a place in the Championship next season.
Even though it has been a long time since they have lost a league game, they received a wake-up call, dropping a 3-2 decision to the Brentford B team in a friendly on Tuesday, falling behind by two goals in the opening six minutes.
One of the areas that has been a sore spot for them in this domestic campaign crept up again this week as the U’s were far too timid going in for challenges against the Bees reserve side, and they had trouble dealing with the high energy and press of the opposition.
They are at their best when their wingers can isolate full-backs in one-on-one situations and work outside of their opponents to force them on their heels, something that has been a big part of their success in League One over the past couple of months.
Oxford goalkeeper Jack Stevens started in their friendly defeat on Tuesday, playing the first 45 minutes after missing some time with a glandular fever.
The U’s put together a big second-half performance last Saturday as Matty Taylor notched the equaliser versus MK Dons, his eighth of the season, moving him ahead of James Henry for the team lead, while Mark Sykes scored the winner with 11 minutes of normal time remaining, his sixth of the campaign.
This team will be missing defender Jordan Thorniley, after the 25-year-old, on loan from Blackpool, was red-carded deep into injury time last Saturday.
The Tics got some bad news this week when it was announced that midfielder Jordan Cousins could miss as much as 16 weeks after suffering a knock in their victory over Shrewsbury earlier this month.
Callum Lang scored their only goal last weekend as he now has eight on the season, one back of the team lead held by Will Keane, while Max Power has enjoyed his share of success versus the scholars of Oxford, scoring twice against them in his career.
Richardson made a few changes to his starting 11 versus Ipswich as Tom Pearce played at left-back instead of Joe Bennett.
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Power replaced the injured Cousins as a holding midfielder, Gwion Edwards took over from Gavin Massey in an attacking midfield position, and Keane played as the lone striker with Lang sitting out.
Oxford United possible starting lineup:
Eastwood; Seddon, Mousinho, Moore, Long; Brannagan, Kane, Williams; Bodin, Taylor, Sykes
Wigan Athletic possible starting lineup:
Amos; Darikwa, Whatmough, Tilt, Bennett; Power, Naylor; Massey, Lang, McClean; Keane