Owen Coyle is under no illusion how difficult this weekend’s Championship fixture against Bournemouth at Dean Court will be for his Latics team.
Eddie Howe’s newly promoted Cherries have had a mixed start to the new season, with opening day victory against Charlton Athletic contrasted by a heavy defeat away to Watford last weekend, but Coyle knows he faces a tough test on the south coast and hopes his players can reproduce the kind of performance from their opening day win against Barnsley and show the same character as they did at Wembley last Sunday.
“We’re on the back of a very tough game at Wembley against the champions of England,” said Coyle, “but one in which I thought we acquitted ourselves very well and left me confident that we’re still building in the direction we want to be.
“This weekend we travel to Dean Court to take a very good Bournemouth side with a fantastic young manager in Eddie Howe.
“They had a terrific home win on the opening day of the season against Charlton Athletic, and whilst the scoreline in their last match against Watford may suggest otherwise it was a close encounter at Vicarage Road which, at half-time, could have gone either way.
“In this league though margins are very tight and games can change very quickly, so we know we’re in for another difficult game on Saturday and we have to be ready to produce a performance the likes of which we saw at Oakwell two weeks ago.
“I believe we’ve had the toughest start to the season of any team in the division, starting with two away games against very tough sides. If we can get through this weekend’s game and come away with another win then we’ll have three home games to look forward to on the other side so there’s a lot riding on this one.”
Coyle welcomes back five players from international duty in the week, and is hopeful all will be fit to push for a place in the starting line-up.
“The squad is looking good, and the boys who have been away on international duty will join up with everyone on Friday so we’ll asses their fitness then and see whether they can be in contention for a place in the team.
“Shaun Maloney and James McCarthy played virtually the full match for their teams in the week, whilst James McClean came off the bench to feature also, so we have to be careful with the demands we put on them.
“Jean (Beausejour) had a minor injury which ruled him out of our Community Shield match against Manchester United, but after consulting with the Chilean medical team he was cleared to represent his country against Iraq and came through 60 minutes unscathed and with two goals to his name, so he’s returned in good spirits ready to compete for a place in Saturday’s team.”
Coyle's full and exclusive pre match preview is available now on Latics Player. To view,[click here].