Roberto Martinez will assess the fitness of Emmerson Boyce and Antolin Alcaraz ahead of this weekend’s Barclays Premier League with Reading at the Madejski Stadium, as both players near their return to action from injury.
Boyce has been absent since Latics met Stoke City at the Britannia Stadium last month, whilst Alcaraz has been missing since the team’s Capital One Cup victory over Nottingham Forest back in August.
But whilst injuries have hampered the team throughout the majority of the season thus far, Martinez says the squad is now looking as fit and healthy as ever:
“For the first time in a while we’ve got a very healthy amount of players competing for places in the team.
“Emmerson Boyce and Antolin Alcaraz have joined the rest of the squad this week and are very close to full fitness.
“Today (Thursday) is a very important day for them, when we can see how they’ve reacted to the work this week. It’s been a hard week for them and depending on their progress in the next 48 hours we’ll determine whether they are ready to come back into the team or not.
“The result and performance we saw in the fifth round of the FA Cup highlighted what talented young players we have ready to compete also, which has developed an important atmosphere within the group at just the right time of the season.
“We’re still trying to get Albert Crusat, Ben Watson and Ryo Miyaichi back as soon as we can, but it’s been great to see so many players desperate to get on the pitch and help the club.”
Saturday’s opponents Reading have earned a reputation for scoring late goals recently, bagging ten in the final ten minutes of Premier League matches this season, goals which have helped to secure eleven points.
The Gaffer is therefore under no illusion as to the task that awaits his team this weekend, saying:
“It’s clear that Reading is a team that never gives up, and will play until the very last second for one another.
“They also have players coming off the bench who allow the team to play in different ways, and that’s something we need to be aware of this weekend.
“To claim eleven points from the last ten minutes of games is an incredible return, so we’ll work hard to ensure we’re prepared for that.
“I would say they’re are in the best moment of their season right now, producing strong performances over the last two months and recording important results as well.
“It’s a very important game for both sides, and for us an opportunity to be as good as we can be in reaching a level we can maintain until the end of the season.”
With twelve games remaining in the season, Martinez highlighted Saturday’s match as an opportunity for the team to begin their march towards survival, saying:
“During the first two thirds of the campaign you’re finding what it is you’ll be fighting for come this point.
“What we have now is a mini-competition within the league to overcome in order to achieve our aim of survival.
“Clearly, we’ve had some very good moments this season and now it’s a case of getting everyone ready to find the same kind of consistency at this stage of the competition that we have done in previous seasons.
“Every game is an opportunity for us now to add to our points tally, and starting on Saturday that is exactly what we need to do.
“We’ve got nothing to lose, and there’s a path ahead of us with the next 12 games to get out of our current situation.
“There’s an expectation and level of performance required from the players now, and when you look around the dressing room you can see the focus and determination in each player to meet those demands.”