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GOOD AND BAD NEWS FOR NORWICH CLASH

PUBLISHED

17:27 13th December 2012

by Paul Chialton

Figueroa set to return for Latics but several still out for Martinez

Roberto Martinez’s pre-match press conferences have become more of an injury update in recent weeks, but in the build-up to this weekend’s Barclays Premier League match against Norwich City at Carrow Road, the Spaniard was able to give good and bad news in terms of his selection options.

He said: “It’s very unlikely that anyone will return this weekend; the majority of injuries we’re dealing with are not long-term but we do have to be careful not to rush players back and risk those injuries getting worse.

“The likes of Ivan Ramis and Gary Caldwell are not far off now but they’re still not quite there yet in terms of being able to make a return.

“After that we have four players who’ll still be missing for a longer period of time; Albert Crusat, Ben Watson, Ryo Miyaichi and Antolin Alcaraz who himself is recovering well and could return by the end of the month.

“The good news though is that Maynor Figueroa will return after his suspension and he’s used this week really positively to get himself into a good moment of form.”

Last season’s game away with the Canaries proved to be a pivotal one in Latics’ top-flight survival; a 1-1 draw which gave the team confidence to build on and record impressive result in the weeks that followed.

Martinez admitted that there have been obvious changes in east Anglia, but in keeping the core of the team together, new manager Chris Hughton has found the key to his team’s recent form, saying:

“Whilst there have been changes in personnel at the club they have maintained good consistency in terms of the playing staff, bringing in players also who have managed to settle in very quickly.

“The two full-backs Steven Whittaker and Javier Garrido in particular have brought experience and balance to the side, and after a difficult start to the season which is inevitable following changes in ideas and work, they find themselves in the best moment of their season.

“They are unbeaten in their last nine league games, a run of consistency that is very hard to achieve, beating top sides along the way and going away from home like last weekend at Swansea and score four goals.

“So you can see they are growing and getting stronger by the week, and that confidence is something we’ll have to match on the day in order to get a result.”

After Sunderland’s victory against Reading on Monday night, Latics slipped into the bottom three for the first time this season, but Martinez doesn’t believe league standards have too much bearing at this stage, explaining:

“We know that the table in December gives you an indication, but we also know that our recent performances have been good and solid.

“We are where we want to be in terms of many aspects we’re seeing on the pitch, but there are areas of improvement at the same time because the points tally is not what we wanted at this stage.

“At the same time though, I feel we’re in a period now that will make us stronger in the final stages of the season. 

“We’re getting through this period with many players missing and when they return they’re going to find it very tough to break back into the team which will in turn develop an even greater competitive edge to the group.

“It’s important now though that we start collecting points which our recent performances deserve; I’m happy in many aspects of our performances but now we need consistency in our score-lines also.”

To see what else the Gaffer had to say on this week’s preparations for the game, the mental approach of the players and his experiences of such a number of injuries in the past [click here].

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