Roberto Martinez explained that Tuesday night’s performance at The Britannia Stadium has given his squad real confidence ahead of this weekend’s Barclays Premier League match against Southampton at the DW Stadium.
Latics came from 2-0 down to draw 2-2 against Stoke City, with a second-half performance that dominated proceedings and could easily have been rewarded with three points instead of one.
Martinez is well aware of the threat Mauricio Pochettino’s side will bring to the DW, but insists his side must use home advantage to secure their first victory of 2013, saying:
“It’s a vital game for us. We have seven games remaining at the DW Stadium this season with 21 points to play for and this weekend’s is going to be a tough one.
“We know we’re playing against a good footballing side with strong players, but we’re playing at home and the manner in which we finishing the game at The Britannia Stadium on Tuesday night has put us in a good frame of mind to face this game with confidence.
“Under their new manager, Southampton have played with a real air of bravery looking impressive against Everton in the first-half and then at Old Trafford even more so.
“They’ve kept all the good elements to them that they brought to the Premier League this season, with players developing more in their individual roles.
“Jay Rodriguez is looking more and more mature, and the partnership between Rickie Lambert and Gaston Ramirez is always a threat supported by the likes of Jason Puncheon who is direct and very talented in the wide areas.
“Elsewhere you have Adam Lallana who is returning from injury and will bring back stability to the team, so you have all the elements to a successful team to face and who I feel will get many positive results between now and the end of the season.”
Emmerson Boyce looked to have picked up an injury in the week, coming off against Stoke before half-time and Martinez commented on his defender’s fitness:
“It’s hard to tell because he’s got a little bit of discomfort in his hamstring, but it doesn’t seem too serious and he’ll be assessed over the next couple of days. I think the main thing is that we caught it at the right time in the game to prevent the injury being anything more serious.
“Apart from that everyone else who was fit and available for the Stoke game is ready for this weekend again.”
Latics are five points ahead of their total from the same point last season, currently with 20 on the board, but Martinez explained that the target he has set his players is more focused on their performances, saying:
“The only target we have is to improve upon the levels we’ve been showing lately; the performance in the second-half against Stoke was as good as it gets, but we need to stop conceding as many goals as we have been.
“Our display in the week should never allow for a two-goal deficit and that’s something we need to work on.
“What we did on the ball, in possession was of the very highest level in terms of moving around the pitch and creating opportunities to score two wonderful goals.”