Wigan Athletic manager Roberto Martinez has singled out their remaining eight home games as crucial to their Premier League survival – starting with Sunderland’s visit today.
The Latics currently rest above the relegation zone on goal difference and are chasing a first win in ten league matches, from which they picked up just two points.
Martinez wants this run of poor form to end when Martin O’Neill’s men come to the DW Stadium to kick-start his side’s battle to stay in the top flight.
“I think this is a very, very important game. When you go into the last eight games of the season at home they become big events,” he told the club website.
“Our margin of improvement lies here in our points return at home and we need to make sure we start that on Saturday.
“I am looking forward to enjoying the atmosphere we can create and make sure we start focusing on the points that are left to compete for.”
Captain Gary Caldwell is set to make his 100th appearance for Wigan, who have no injuries concerns other than Ivan Ramis who is out for the season with a knee injury
They will be seeking revenge for a narrow defeat in the reverse fixture in September when Steven Fletcher’s strike gave the Black Cats the edge after Jordi Gomez was dismissed.
But Martinez admitted they face tough opposition from a Sunderland side that has taken nine points from the last 15 – including a win over champions Manchester City.
“They are clearly in the best moment of their season in terms,” he said. “Three wins in the last five games is a very good run and a very good achievement.
“We all know that they carry really good individual threat and they all work very, very hard for each other. They have become a very difficult team to play against.”
After progressing to the FA Cup fourth round in midweek – ending Bournemouth’s 17-match unbeaten streak – Martinez also has a selection of young stars at his fingertips.
“The players that played on Tuesday are players that are ready to come in and help in the league so it is important that these players keep playing in the manner that they did,” he said.
“Everybody is ready – has to be ready – to be contention for the second half of the season, which is going to be demanding and everyone will be needed for the two competitions.”
Image courtesy of BBC Sport via YouTube, with thanks