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WE’RE READY FOR TOUGH TEST

PUBLISHED

12:37 16th April 2013

by Paul Chialton

Martinez says squad is excited about demands of upcoming fixtures

Roberto Martinez has no concerns over making changes to his team for Wednesday night’s game against Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium, Latics’ second game of three in the space of seven days, such is the determination of each member of his squad.

The Spaniard has made just one change to the starting line up in the last five fixtures, with Ali Al Habsi replacing Joel Robles in goal for Saturday’s FA Cup semi final against Millwall, but admits that over the coming weeks the whole group will be called upon at some point:

He said: “We’re still monitoring how the players have recovered from Saturday’s game but what is refreshing is that we have a strong number of players who are ready to come into the team and perform.

“So making changes doesn’t concern me because of how desperate the players are to play and the demands of the coming weeks, with so many games to play in a short space of time, which means that everyone is going to be given an opportunity.

“Right now it’s not about how many minutes players are going to get on the pitch, it’s about the quality they bring to the team and the attitude they bring to these hugely significant games.

“So everyone is needed for the coming weeks but it’s also important that players in good moments of form are given the chance to continue enjoying their football, being part of a team on the pitch that shows the togetherness and understanding of what is needed to obtain results.”

As for the other Roberto, Mancini, his team have suffered defeat just once at home this season, losing to their local rivals Manchester United back in December, and although the two sides will meet at Wembley for the final in May right now Martinez sees this as the most important meeting, explaining:

“This is the most important game right now and the start of an exciting run of fixtures until the end of the season.

“It’s of course going to be very difficult; you only need to look at their home form over the last two years to see that but also be excited at the challenge that awaits.

“At the same time it’s an important game and a chance for us to catch up on the games we’ve missed as part of our FA Cup achievements, so the focus on the game is massive from everyone at the club.

“There’s no doubt that the Etihad Stadium is one of the toughest to visit in the Premier League. Man City’s performance on Sunday at Wembley shows that this team are finishing the season strong and are fully focused themselves on enjoying success come the end of May.

“Looking back at our previous meetings home and away, the games have been quite close but we haven’t quite found the level needed to take a result, which is what we need to try and achieve on Wednesday.

“However I do feel that internally this team is as strong as it has been all season, and as you can imagine everyone is desperate show what they can do and what they can offer to the team in the remaining games.

“It was more of a mental challenge at Wembley on Saturday. Physically it served as a good exercise of course, but something that we’re well used to in that sense.

“The occasion was very unique and I was very impressed with how the players dealt with the tag of being favourites for the game on such a stage.”

As for the fitness of the team, Martinez explained that the situation isn’t too dissimilar to that before the Millwall game, but is encouraged by the progress being made by Ben Watson in nearing his return to action:

“Ben travelled with the team to Wembley and has really stepped up his programme recently to close in on full fitness once more.

“Medically, he’s 100% now, but it’s a case of gaining the match fitness he needs to rediscover the tempo and rhythm in his play to make sure his return has the impact I know it can.

“Ben’s a unique player in our squad and what he brings to the team is something we’ve missed over the past few months. His rehabilitation has been incredible, he’s way ahead of his initial return date and that’s all down to the work and dedication he’s put in during this time.”

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