WALSALL may statistically be one of the most out-of-form teams in League One but Swindon Town are not much better, and manager Paolo Di Canio has told his players to underestimate the Saddlers at their peril this weekend.
The Bescot Stadium side currently sit third from bottom in the form table, without a win in seven league games and nine in all competitions.
Walsall haven’t tasted victory since a 2-1 success at Bournemouth at the end of September and were thrashed 4-1 at home by a struggling Scunthorpe side who played for more than 45 minutes with 10 men on Tuesday night.
It all makes for miserable reading for Saddlers supporters, but the Town fans and players would do well to remember Swindon have won just once in their last seven matches in all.
And Di Canio reasoned that his squad will have to push themselves to get fired up for the game so they don’t produce a performance similar to the capitulation against Macclesfield in the FA Cup last weekend.
“We’re looking at the next game in a positive way. After the performance we put in against Sheffield United, that has to be our spirit, commitment,” he said.
“We have a chance to go their as usual, play our game, try to get the maximum we can - three points.
“That (Scunthorpe’s 4-1 win) proved that it’s strange. When you play Saturday-Tuesday-Saturday, especially when you play after the cup, anything can happen.
“It’s not because Scunthorpe are a top side. Walsall is a better side in this moment. Anything can happen, it depends how you approach the game.
“Everybody can damage the opponents, even the teams at the bottom. Everything can happen, especially when you play every three days.
“Obviously the best team is the team that can keep their attention, recharge their batteries more mentally than physically, as soon as they can.
“Otherwise it is difficult. For us it is difficult for many reasons but we have to be careful doing this otherwise we can’t have a good season.
“Good or not good, now we are out of all the cup competitions we can focus our attention on the league. That lets me think that we can improve in this way, maintaining a very high level of attention and focus on the next game.
“When we play like we did against Sheffield United, even with many problems in selection, we can cause problems to anyone.”
Di Canio was at a loss to explain why Walsall have fallen on hard times of late, but he did suggest that inexperience may be an issue.
He said: “They are a group of young fellas. Sometimes you can pay the price. They have many young guys. But anyway they have a genuine enthusiasm, quality and desire. Obviously the next game they will give maybe 200 per cent but if that situation keeps going for the next two weeks, two months that means there is some problem.
“It’s obvious that we have to try to amplify the problem otherwise we are going to cause problems to ourselves.
“The problem is in the way we approach. If we don’t put pressure on the game then we will allow them to have the first chance in maybe weeks and we don’t want to do this.
“I have started persuading my players that it is not acceptable any more to fall in a trap that we go there and underestimate the opponents.
“We can’t. Now we have proved to ourselves that we can’t against any side.
“I hope that the next game will confirm we have improved in terms of professionalism because this is a part of the performance which is crucial.
“Then we can lose or we can win, we will see.
“Statistics tell you something but it isn’t everything. We will try to put them under pressure because we know they have difficulty but every game is a different story.”
The Robins could welcome John Bostock back into their matchday squad at the Bescot Stadium following his groin problem, but Tommy Miller, Alan Navarro, Giles Coke and Federico Bessone remain sidelined by injury.
Aden Flint serves the second game of a four-match ban and Alan McCormack is unlikely to recover from his hamstring complaint in time to feature.
For the Saddlers, Florent Cuvelier, Andy Taylor and Ben Purkiss are all set to miss out with hamstring injuries.