Wigan Athletic Vs Birmingham, Sat 19 Mar 2011

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Wigan boss Roberto Martinez expects his players to put their bodies on their line as the relegation battle intensifies.

Latics have just nine games to save their Barclays Premier League status after slipping to the bottom of the table and four points below the crucial 17th place.

Martinez has bemoaned his side's lack of fortune in relation to performances all season - narrow defeat at Manchester City a fortnight ago being a prime example - but believes hard work will be rewarded.

The Spaniard said: "We have got nine games - 27 points to play for.

"We are prepared to give our lives for the cause and as a football club we are ready to experience that challenge.

"We are in the worst position in the table but it can only get better.

"The way we see it, if we play with the bravery and the courage we have shown, we will have an opportunity to be successful again.

"It is not time to look back. We all know the reasons why we are in this situation.

"I have been very pleased with the level of performances but time is catching up with us in terms of points.

"We have dropped too many points but now is the time to look forward to the next nine games and be as strong as we can be."

Wigan face a crucial game against fellow strugglers Birmingham at the DW Stadium.

Birmingham are outside the relegation zone only on goal difference and have not won since their memorable Carling Cup final victory over Arsenal last month.


It could be a good opportunity for Wigan to win for the first time in four league games but Martinez is taking little notice of the form guides.

He said: "There is never a right moment to play a team - it is down to ourselves.

"Birmingham made history and will now be looking to finish as high up the table as they can. It has been a phenomenal campaign for them.

"We need to make sure we create a really tough environment at the DW Stadium in the last four games to make it as difficult as we can for the opposition.

"It is down to the performances and the players are desperate to give their all for Wigan Athletic. As long as we do that, I'm happy.

"When we all get together we are a powerful football club. We are all excited.

"It is an extremely talented young group, ready for one of the challenges of our careers."

Alex McLeish believes a combination of "experience, bottle and passion" is required to keep Birmingham in the Premier League.

The Carling Cup winners now have to concentrate on staying in the top flight for a third successive season - starting at Wigan.

But McLeish will be boosted by the return to fitness of half a dozen players, including skipper Stephen Carr and midfield general Barry Ferguson, for the meeting with the bottom-placed Latics.

McLeish said: "You need that never say die attitude and bottle to get you through.

"You need to persevere right to the very end but the experience factor could help and we have that as well.

"The good thing about this squad is I believe the lot of them could be Birmingham fans given the way they have committed themselves to the cause over the last couple of years.

"That should be a trait in every footballer anyway.

"You sometimes get some players who don't have the character and the same feel for a club and maybe don't put the same input in.

"But I know these guys in the current squad are all capable of being Birmingham fans because of their attitude and approach."

McLeish accepts this weekend could be a pivotal one in the battle to survive with locals rivals Aston Villa and Wolves facing each other at Villa Park.

He said: "There are a lot of big games this weekend and, as a league, we have come to the real business side of the season.

"We know that winning this game would give us fantastic confidence for the run-in.

"But, if we don't get the result we are looking for, the league is not finished.

"There will still be plenty of points to be played for in the nine games after that."

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