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COMPETITION FIERCE SAYS GAFFER

PUBLISHED

08:47 28th September 2012

by Paul Chialton

Di Santo & Alcaraz doubtful for Sunderland clash but Martinez happy with squad strength

Roberto Martinez is unsure whether Franco Di Santo will make a full recovery from his calf injury in time to face Sunderland at the Stadium of Light on Saturday afternoon, with the striker set to step up his rehabilitation towards the end of the week.

The Argentine striker picked up his injury at Old Trafford two weeks ago and was ruled out of last weekend’s defeat against Fulham, but the Gaffer says his recovery since has been encouraging.

“We’re quite positive over Franco’s situation,” said Martinez, “he’s a quick healer and by the end of the week we’ll have a better understanding of where he’s up to in his rehabilitation.

“I expect over Thursday and Friday that he’ll begin training with the group again, which he hasn’t been able to do lately, and that will tell us more about his chances of making the game.”

Antolin Alcaraz meanwhile looks certain to miss the trip to the North East having still not fully recovered from a groin injury suffered whilst on international duty with Paraguay.

Martinez said: “Antolin perhaps needs another 7-10 days to fully recover from his groin injury so the game will be too soon for him, but we hope to have him closer to a return for the Everton game.

“Apart from them two there are one or two niggles and knocks, but nothing that is going to rule anyone out of Saturday’s game.

“It’s a blow, but it’s something you have to deal with over the course of the season. Injuries and suspensions are part and parcel of the modern game, but what absences in the team do provide is the opportunity for someone else to come in and make a good impression.”

The Gaffer made several changes to his team for Tuesday night’s Capital One Cup third round tie against West Ham United and believes the convincing 4-1 has proved the strength in depth available to cope with such injuries, explaining:

“It’s important we build on the momentum picked up at West Ham because as I’ve said before, competition for places in the team is very open at the minute.

“Performances like the one we saw on Tuesday night allow you to see the potential held by some of the squad’s younger players and assess the moment of form other players are currently in.

“I really feel as though competition within the squad is as strong as it has ever been before and from now onwards you’ll see players competing for their place in the team before competing for results on the pitch.”

Latics were handed a home draw against Bradford City in the fourth round draw on Wednesday night, a tie the Gaffer is looking forward to, saying:

“In any cup draw to have the opportunity to play at home is great news. We’ve had two away fixtures in the competition so far and have enjoyed both, but there’s nothing quite like playing at the DW Stadium.

“It’ll be against a Bradford side that have done well in this competition so far and will be eager to progress into the quarter finals.

“But we’re excited at the prospect and delighted to be able to put it to one side as we turn concentration back on the Premier League”.

That concentration is on Martin O’Neill’s Sunderland team, who are without a league win since March as well as their captain and former Wigan Athletic midfielder Lee Cattermole, who is suspended after being sent off in the Black Cats’ cup win against MK Dons on Tuesday.

However, like Latics, Martinez is under no illusion that Sunderland have the quality to cope with their absent skipper.

He said: “We know Lee from his time here, he’s a fully committed player and will be a big loss for Sunderland.

“But they do have very good options to replace him and have become a really well organised unit since the last time we visited the Stadium of Light, difficult to break down with real quality in the counter attack.

“Signings such as Steven Fletcher and Adam Johnson in the summer have added yet more strength to their forward play and we’re well aware that on Saturday we’ll face a hungry team who have come close lately to finding the positive results their performances have deserved.

“It’s an important game for us; the Fulham defeat has put us in a position whereby we need a result which should help us to build up some good league form.”

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