Roberto Martinez is delighted that leading Premier League goalscorer Arouna Kone is back in contention for Latics, after Ivory Coast exited the Africa Cup of Nations on Sunday.
Kone’s side were defeated 2-1 by Nigeria, with the 29 year-old playing just 90 minutes of football during his time with Sabri Lamouchi’s squad, but Martinez believes his forward won’t have too much trouble slipping back into club duties:
He said: “He’s had a big disappointment in his season regarding Ivory Coast’s exit from the Africa Cup of Nations, but that of course allows him to return to his club, train with the group and get ready for Saturday’s game at Stamford Bridge which is a huge positive for us.
“We’ll asses how fit he is, but there’s no concerns as to whether he’ll be ready to play; we had constant contact with the player and medical staff whilst he was away and although he hasn’t played much football, he did play 90 minutes against Algeria and his physical nature will ensure he doesn’t have any trouble settling back into the demands of the Premier League.”
One man who has met those demands superbly well since his arrival in January is Roger Espinoza, who was impressive again at the weekend in his home Premier League debut against Southampton.
Martinez commented on the Honduran’s settling in period and what elements he’s brought to the team, saying:
“He’s a player who can play in many positions, is full of energy and very dynamic who has brought a real good outlook to our midfield.
“I think his introduction to the English game has been very positive; being tested early on in the FA Cup and picking up experiences and sharpness which allowed him to play the full 90 minutes against Stoke City.
“To play such a key role in three games within a week shows the capacity he has as an individual coming from abroad and trying to adapt to the demands of our game.
“We’re all looking forward to seeing him continue to settle in and enjoy his football at Wigan Athletic.”
Looking ahead to this weekend’s game at Stamford Bridge, the gaffer is yet to confirm whether Emmerson Boyce will be fit enough to return to the team, after missing his first league game of the season last Saturday:
“Emmerson’s hamstring injury at Stoke meant he missed out against Southampton at the weekend. It’s not a major problem but we’ll take it day by day and carefully asses when the best time to bring him back will be.
“Elsewhere, Ben Watson is progressing well and is ahead of the recovery times we set for him at the beginning of his rehabilitation, whilst Ryo Miyaichi and Antolin Alcaraz should be training with the rest of the team very soon.”
Martinez is wary of a Chelsea backlash, after the Blues’ recent run of form which sees them with just two wins in their last six league games, but hopes his team can produce a similar performance to the one that he feels should have yielded a result in the capital last season:
“It’s an important game for us, in a period of the season when we can’t afford to worry about who we’re playing, but make sure we’re as good as we can be in order to take positive results – that’s the challenge we’re looking forward to most.
“However, I would say that if ever there was a bad time to play this Chelsea side it is now; on the back of a couple of negative results wanting a reaction at their home.
“Last season we performed really well at Stamford Bridge when there was real pressure on us and were very unfortunate not to come away with a result.”
To see what else Roberto had to say on the return of Paul Scharner, Latics’ transfer window dealings and James McCarthy’s top FAI award [click here].