Roberto Martinez believes his team’s previous experiences of Stamford Bridge will help them understand what is necessary when Latics return to the capital this weekend to take on Rafa Benitez’s side in the Barclays Premier League.
A 2-1 defeat in their last visit came after a performance deserving of more and two Chelsea goals that were later shown to be offside; a day that left a bitter taste in the mouth initially for Martinez, but had a silver lining in the weeks that followed, as he explained:
“There was clear frustration and disappointment the last time we visited Chelsea, because the performance was deserving of a positive result which never came.
“The refereeing decisions made defeat even tougher to accept, but on the flip-side it made us realise that we were capable of going anywhere in this division and performing at our best.
“I think the game made us understand what is needed when you travel to this venue in order to give yourself the best chance of taking a positive result, and although we’re taking on a side looking for a reaction we too are hoping to bring something home from the game.”
Martinez also explained that despite recent result putting pressure on his opposite number at Stamford Bridge, there is much to be cautious about come 3.00pm on Saturday.
He said: “I think this is the worst time to be playing Chelsea, given the negative results they’ve had in recent weeks.
“In many ways, those results have not come about from poor performances, I think they’ve been unfortunate not to take more rewards.
“But I don’t think we can afford to look at the opposition too much; we’re in a moment of our season where every game has to be an opportunity to take points regardless of the team we’re facing.
“We need to build on the recent draws against Stoke City and Southampton, which can be reflected on as good results if we take a positive result from Stamford Bridge.”
Martinez welcomed back a number of his squad members this week from international duty, nine of whom played some role for their country and all of whom won their respective matches.
The Gaffer says spirits are high as a result of the positive results, and is confident all will be fit enough to stake a claim for a place in Saturday’s team, saying:
“We’ve had good reports from all the players who have been on international duty, but are still waiting to assess how Maynor Figueroa and Roger Espinoza have come through their test against USA.
“They both played 90 minutes in a good performance, but we expect them to return ready for the game as Arouna Kone did yesterday (Wednesday).
“All the players will return after being victorious for their country, which is a big positive and will help give morale around the training ground a real boost.
“Antolin Alcaraz, Emmerson Boyce, Adrian Lopez and Ryo Miyaichi have all been able to continue their work back at the training ground and are showing real signs of progress, but this weekend will perhaps be too soon for their return.”
Arouna Kone’s return from the Africa Cup of Nations came as a result of Nigeria’s progression in the competition, after a 2-1 win for the Super Eagles over Ivory Coast in the quarter finals.
It means that Chelsea duo John Obi Mikel and Victor Moses will be unavailable for the match, a big miss for the blues according to Martinez:
“We know better than most how good a player Victor Moses is and, together with John Obi Mikel, he is an important part of Chelsea’s squad who I’m sure they would much rather have available this weekend than not.
“From our point-of-view we’re been able to bring back Arouna Kone from international duties, and although he is disappointed not to be still competing for the Africa Cup of Nations title he is desperate to get back in the team here.
“People talk about the importance of bringing in new players during the January transfer window, but believe me this feels like a new signing for us given how long he’s been away.”