Wigan Athletic v Norwich City preview: Roberto Martinez hopes another good performance against the Canaries can save Wigan's season


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The Independent Football

Wigan have never beaten Norwich in the league, yet Roberto Martinez is hoping a match against the Canaries can prove crucial to their survival hopes for the second season in a row.

The Latics go into tomorrow's game against Chris Hughton's side at the DW Stadium sitting three points off safety in the Barclays Premier League with nine games remaining.

Last season their situation was more dire and they were hot favourites for relegation when they travelled to Carrow Road on March 11.

The first half reinforced Wigan's shortcomings but after the break they found a different gear, Victor Moses equalised, and they were disappointed only to come away with a draw.

Of the remaining 10 games, the Latics won seven, beating Liverpool, Manchester United and Arsenal, and they secured their Premier League status with a game to go.

Moses has moved on to Chelsea but, with Wigan's injury list at last down to manageable levels, Martinez sees plenty of reasons to think the outcome could be the same.

He said: “There are many similarities and the biggest similarity for me is the options that we've got on the pitch. I think the competition for places is stronger than ever.

“Last season we went to Carrow Road and that's where Shaun Maloney came alive, Victor Moses all of a sudden looked like a player that was capable of winning a game single-handed, and now we've got exactly the same.

“After a very difficult season in terms of numbers we've got really good options in the side and we've got a lot of games in the weeks left.

“The standard in training has been really high and in many ways it's like a fresh start in our season. But we haven't beaten Norwich and we need to make sure we can change that.”

The difference this time is that Wigan already appear to have turned a corner after back-to-back wins over Everton in the FA Cup quarter-finals and Newcastle in the league.

They have won four of their last five games, although only two of the last nine in the league.

The cup victory over Everton, where they stunned their opponents 3-0 at Goodison Park, was one of the best days in Wigan's history, but it also means they must juggle the lure of potentially two trips to Wembley with vital league games.

Martinez said: “The opportunity to be involved in April in two competitions is something we're embracing the challenge of. It needs a big-club mentality and we're enjoying that.

“But every game in the league now is a unique opportunity to get points and to get where we want to be. It's nothing different than any other season and, as you saw the last game we played, there is a real desire to improve our home form.

“I thought the atmosphere we created showed that and the next one is to improve our results after an international break, which this season, for one reason or another, haven't been good enough.”

The victory over Newcastle was only their third at the DW Stadium this season compared to four away, while Wigan have lost every game following a round of international fixtures.

With a sizeable contingent of players from Central and South America, it is not surprising Martinez has been a vocal critic of the timing of international fixtures, but this time he believes it could work in their favour.

The Spaniard said: “I think what this break has done is allowed the players to come back and just focus on what they've got in front of them.

“It would be hard to find another seven weeks left in a season in Wigan Athletic's history as exciting as these ones so I think this international break has come at the right time for us.”

Martinez is likely to make late decisions on the fitness of striker Callum McManaman and defender Antolin Alcaraz tomorrow.

McManaman, Wigan's most high-profile player of the moment following his tackle on Newcastle's Massadio Haidara, has an ankle problem while Martinez is keen not to overplay Alcaraz, who missed six months of the season with a groin tear.

Meanwhile, assistant manager Graham Barrow will have to watch the game from the stands after being given a one-match ban and a £1,000 fine by the Football Association yesterday.

Barrow was involved in a confrontation with John Carver on the pitch two weeks ago after the Newcastle assistant boss angrily approached McManaman at half-time.