Roberto Martinez will wait to see how Antolin Alcaraz and Callum McManaman come through training over the next 48 hours before deciding whether to select them in this weekend’s match against Norwich City at the DW Stadium.
Latics are looking to secure back-to-back wins in the Premier League which would take their points tally to 30, but Martinez doesn’t want to risk further injury to his players in a crucial match for his team, saying:
“The concerns we have for this weekend are with Callum McManaman and Antolin Alcaraz. Callum’s ankle injury meant he had to come off in the last game and we’re still keeping a close eye on his condition but the next few days will be crucial for him.
“With Antolin we have to remember that he is still recovering from an injury that ruled him out for six months of the season. After the amount of football he’s played in recent weeks we need to take his fatigue into consideration and hope that he comes through the next few days.
“Before the Newcastle game we spoke about how important it was to change our home form, and that result has helped us to change our mentality for games at the DW Stadium.
“We’ve got four more opportunities to take advantage of our home, including this weekend, and each one of those occasions needs to be treated as a huge event and a change to show our best qualities.
“After this weekend’s game we won’t be back here for a long time because of commitments in two competitions that are taking us away from our home, so much every bit of our focus and energy is being channelled into taking on the Canaries and carry on with the positives from our last game.”
Fourteen members of the squad returned this week from international duty, playing a combined total of around 1,500 minutes and a combined travelling distance of a staggering 120,000 miles, with matches being played in places like Australia, Chile, Bolivia and Serbia.
Martinez admitted that his team’s form following international breaks this season hasn’t been good enough, but is looking forward to seeing his team overcome another mental obstacle, saying:
“As a football club we want to have the demands that those at the top of the game have, it serves as a sign of how much we’ve grown that we have so many players representing their national teams.
“All of our players are experienced and know what it takes to meet the demands of club and international football, but it’s still important that we help them to refocus now and capture the excitement they have for what the final seven weeks of the season have in store.
“They’ve all come back in good spirits without any injuries and are really looking forward to competing for their place in the team this weekend.
“Our form on the back of international breaks hasn’t been too good, but that is one of those obstacles you need to overcome in football at this level.
“It’s a mental challenge, just like changing our home form was. We managed to correct results at the DW Stadium with the win against Newcastle, and now we have to change our mentality when it comes to responding to the demands of an international break.”
That Newcastle game drew the largest home crowd of the season, and Martinez explained how Latics fans made the difference on the day and helped the team come away with maximum points:
“The effect of the fans was there for all to see. For the first hour of the game we were dominant and should have scored more than one goal, but went through a period of 10 or so minutes when Newcastle came back strong and got their equaliser.
“It’s those moments when you need your crowd and that home advantage to work in your favour, and that’s exactly what we got.
“The fans helped us find that extra yard and got us through a tough opposition and build enough momentum to finish the game as we did. The fans were the difference between us coming away with just one point or all three, and hope they saw the influence they had.
“We can’t lose that spirit in the remaining games we have this season. There’s a real boost around the town and the club, and we must maintain that between now and the end of the season.
“We need each other more than ever now, and have to make sure we affect every single second the players are out on the football pitch to get the results we deserve.”