Football

Wigan Athletic Vs Stoke City, Tue 9 Feb 2010

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Wigan manager Roberto Martinez has virtually a fully-fit squad to choose from for the Barclays Premier League visit of Stoke.

January signings Victor Moses and Marcelo Moreno made brief substitute appearances in Saturday's 1-1 draw at Sunderland but it may still be too early to hand either their first start.

Midfielder Steven Gohouri is the only absentee with a hamstring problem.

Martinez believes his side are better prepared to face Stoke having learned lessons from their previous encounter this season.

Back in December, the Latics twice led at the Britannia Stadium before being pegged back to a 2-2 draw as striker Hugo Rodallega missed an 89th-minute penalty.

Even though they could not hold onto a lead in Saturday's 1-1 draw against Sunderland at the Stadium of Light, Martinez is confident his side have improved.

"All the games against Stoke are going to be competitive from the first minute until the last and we will have to have great concentration throughout the game," said the Spaniard, whose side have won only one of their last nine Barclays Premier League matches.

"In many aspects we have got stronger - partnerships and overall in dead-ball situations we are a lot stronger. I feel we have learned our lessons since then (the draw at Stoke). Even then we were only one kick away from the three points.

"Sometimes in football you get what you deserve over two legs so we hope the luck will be on our side. The talent is there, we have been a bit inconsistent but we have improved as a team."

Martinez does not consider relegation to be an issue just yet but admits he may have to reassess if the situation has not changed by April.

"Every point is vital from now until the end of the season," he said. "We are not in the last third of the campaign yet, which is when everything starts to have a massive influence on the table.

"But we want to go into every game - especially the nine we have at home - with that must-win attitude. The table always comes alive in April and that is when you look into it and assess how we are doing.

"I am pleased with the way we are trying to win games and I'm happy with the progression. We are quite clear how we want to win games but we cannot look any further than this game, which is a cup final within a league campaign and we know that."

Stoke captain Abdoulaye Faye could make his return to first-team action.

Faye, who has been suffering with a back problem, failed a late fitness test before the 3-0 victory over Blackburn on Saturday but could recover in time to play at the DW Stadium.

Andy Wilkinson received stitches to a head injury in the Blackburn game but is available for selection.

Currently just two places and two points above the drop zone, Martinez's side are fighting for their lives and boss Tony Pulis is expecting another tough encounter.

"It will be a tough game at Wigan. I respect every football club in this league and I certainly respect what they have got," said Pulis.

"We played them a few weeks ago here and the kid scored from the halfway line.

"They have got good quality right through the team and it will be a tough game."

Pulis insists reaching 40 points remains Stoke's prime objective despite their promising start to the new year.

The Potters are unbeaten in 2010, with four wins and two draws in all competitions.

Saturday's 3-0 victory over Blackburn at the Britannia Stadium made it four league matches without defeat for Pulis' side and saw them leapfrog Rovers in the table and move up to 11th place.

Stoke have games in hand over the teams immediately above them which could see them banish any lingering prospect of a relegation battle in the next few weeks and start to consolidate a place in the top 10.

But Pulis has stressed that until the Potters have secured a total of 40 points - enough to virtually guarantee top flight survival - they will not be thinking of anything else.

"We have got to get to 40 points, I think everybody will be wanting to get that," said Pulis, whose team moved to within 11 points of that tally with Saturday's triumph.

"I think the sooner you get to 40 points then you can take stock, but 40 points is the target.

"It's six games unbeaten which is good and if we can carry that on a few more games, get a few more wins, we will be delighted."

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Topics:
Stoke City
Football
Premier League
Wigan Athletic
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