Roberto Martinez is hoping that Latics’ recent performances away from home can help them to rediscover their form back at the DW Stadium, where they face Liverpool this weekend.
Latics have recorded just two home wins this season (against West Ham United & Reading), but after completing the double over the Royals in style last weekend, Martinez says his group have a new found energy about them to make the DW a fortress for the remainder of the campaign.
He said: “Our last two games should serve as a benchmark to what we’re looking forward to in the coming weeks.
“It’s important that we use our environment to our advantage. Two wins at home this season is a poor return, especially when you consider the performances we’ve seen at the DW Stadium.
“Now is the time to affect those small margins with the help of the fans, which could be the difference in complimenting a good performance with the right result.
“It’s been a difficult and frustrating season in terms of results, but the level of performances has been very good, better than last season in fact.
“In that aspect we’ve seen big improvements in this campaign, but I’ve certainly seen a different focus and concentration from the group in the last two games, which is something we need to continue with.
“Our aim is to now replicate the levels shown against Reading and Huddersfield, and keep pushing one another forward as a group.”
Latics face a Liverpool side that, despite exiting the Europa League recently, have been defeated just once in the last five league games and are looking to break their winless record of five matches at the DW Stadium.
Martinez is fully aware of the threat Brendan Rodgers’ side will pose on Saturday, but insists the performance of his team is the key to a positive result, saying:
“Liverpool have shown how good a side they are in the last few weeks, with some eye-catching results.
“We need to be prepared to face a group of players who, as individuals, are extremely talented and full of experience.
“We’re going to see the best of them this weekend, but we can’t afford to concentrate too much on the opposition in attempting to achieve our aim, and we’ve shown that focus recently.
“It’s time for us to push one another and compete with one another to hit the levels which will help us to get positive results.
“I’m sure it’s going to be an open and exciting game against Liverpool this weekend, with both sides sharing football concepts and looking to gain possession whenever possible.”
Emmerson Boyce and Antolin Alcaraz returned to action last weekend against Reading following their respective injuries to boost the Gaffer’s options at the back. But far from giving the Spaniard a selection dilemma, he sees no headache in picking his starting eleven:
“The team is in a similar moment to when we went to Reading. Emmerson Boyce is again ready to feature, and Antolin Alcaraz has had his first taste of the Barclays Premier League since August which has given his recovery a real boost.
“Elsewhere, Ryo Miyaichi is progressing very well and isn’t too far away also, so all of a sudden we’ve had very positive news surrounding players who have been unfortunate not to have been able to play a bigger role this season.
“You can’t have selection problems when you have top quality players available, ready to help the team.
“We’re at the beginning of March and still involved in two competitions, so each player is going to have an important role to carry out between now and the end of the season.
“We’ll make sure that we give each player the right amount of playing time and assess everyone before each game to ensure we’re as strong as we can be for the remaining games.”
Finally, Latics discovered on Tuesday night that they will face Everton at Goodison Park in the quarter final of the FA Cup next Saturday, after David Moyes’ men overcame Oldham Athletic in a fifth round replay.
Martinez hopes the help of Latics’ travelling support can guide the club through to unchartered territory:
“You’re not going to get easy games when you’re in the quarter finals of the FA Cup.
“Both teams know each other really well and I’m sure the atmosphere at Goodison Park will be terrific for an exciting game we’re all looking forward to being involved in.
“Both teams are one step away from a Wembley semi-final, and that means a lot to everyone at the football club. So we need to approach it as we have been doing in the previous rounds; as a competition which has allowed us to judge our progress behind the scenes and be at our best.
“We’re not going to take it lightly though; this is an historic moment in our football club, an opportunity to progress further than we ever have done in the competition and I’m sure our fans will give us an incredible backing next weekend to help that become reality.”