Martinez backs Wigan to upset relegation odds on the run-in

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The Independent Football

Wigan manager Roberto Martinez will use his side's tag as relegation favourites as extra motivation in the final seven matches of the season. Wigan are bottom of the Premier League, albeit only two points from safety, and in a position many expected them to occupy before the season kicked off.

Martinez remains confident of the club's survival in the top flight. "They always pick on the small club and they always expect you to go down and it is great motivation for us," the Spaniard said yesterday. "It's something we can't control from the outside, we've always been the small club who everyone believes will go down. It's great motivation for us and we continue to concentrate on what we can do on the pitch to prove people wrong over the final seven games.

"Against Tottenham [a goalless draw last Saturday] we saw a fantastic display, particularly from a defensive point of view, stopping them [from playing] their game and then creating the better chances going forward. That will give the players a lot of belief and if we can continue enjoying our football, playing to those standards, I'm sure we'll upset the odds. In many ways it's a shame the season doesn't start now because the team are starting to see the rewards from all their hard work, have a great understanding on the pitch and the level of the performances [has] improved.

"Now it's vital we get the points we need from this season because this squad is ready to achieve great things in the future. We wanted to achieve this standard a lot earlier and it's a shame that injuries and the increased competition in the league this season have made that development difficult. But we're still just one win from jumping out of the relegation zone and the team are ready for the challenge."

At fellow relegation strugglers Blackburn, Nikola Kalinic could leave at the end of the season if he does not start getting more first-team action. Croatia international Kalinic has not played in Rovers' last three matches and did not even make the squad for last weekend's 0-0 draw at Arsenal.

The 23-year-old striker's representative, Tomislav Erceg, insists Kalinic is focused on helping Blackburn preserve their Premier League status, but admits the situation is concerning for his client and confirmed they intend to hold talks with the club over his future at Ewood Park in the summer.

"It has not been easy for Nikola and we don't know what has happened because last month he played for a strong Croatian team but he has not played a second for Blackburn," Erceg said. "We are not even talking about other clubs now, though, because he is contracted with Blackburn and wants to concentrate on helping the club out of a difficult position. He likes Blackburn Rovers and is happy here but he needs to play."