Wigan prepare for return of striker Hugo Rodallega ahead of Fulham clash


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The Independent Football

Wigan will welcome back a familiar face when Fulham head to the DW Stadium for tomorrow's Barclays Premier League clash.

Striker Hugo Rodallega left the Latics in the summer after refusing to sign a new contract before joining Martin Jol's men in July.

The manner of the Colombian's departure from Wigan means he is likely to be in for a hot reception from the home fans, but Martinez believes Rodallega will go down in history as one of the club's favourite sons.

Rodallega's tally of 24 goals makes him Wigan's all-time leading goalscorer in the Premier League, while his winner against Stoke in the final game of the 2010-11 season kept the club in the top flight.

Martinez said: "We know Hugo really well. It's one of those situations where I'm sure when Hugo retires everyone will have incredible memories of his past at Wigan Athletic and I'm sure he'll have a really soft spot for his time at Wigan.

"I think it was a really special relationship. Now he's moved on, he's got a different challenge, we've moved on, and when you play against each other you both fight for your own aims.

"But Hugo's past will always be remembered and I'm sure every fan will have a special moment."

Wigan will look to bounce back from last weekend's 4-0 defeat against Manchester United at Old Trafford with their first home win of the season.

Fulham traditionally struggle on their travels and have lost both their away games so far this season, narrowly against Manchester United and then disappointingly to West Ham.

Martinez said: "They're very strong at home, arguably the best team in the league playing at home at the moment.

"Away from home they've had a mixture but their game at Old Trafford was a game they finished really strongly and maybe they should have got something out of it.

"They have a really strong group of players that have been there for a long time and they have a really important know how about their football club. And the new players have settled in quickly so I think it's a very well-balanced side.

"Every time we've played Fulham they've always been really difficult games, very close, and they come down to small details, so I expect more of the same on Saturday."

Fulham were impressive winners last weekend, beating in-form West Brom 3-0 with two goals from Dimitar Berbatov, a summer arrival from Manchester United and someone Martinez knows his side will need to be wary of.

"He has tremendous experience and is a player who brings that big-club knowledge into a squad, and that's always important," said the Latics boss. "He looks hungry, he looks fresh and that's always a real threat. We'll have to be very aware of that."

When Fulham last visited the DW Stadium 13 months ago, Wigan were in the middle of a sorry run that saw them lose nine matches in a row.

Their home form looked set to condemn them to relegation, with Martinez's side failing to win a match at the DW Stadium between August and the end of March before a brilliant finish helped them secure a remarkable escape for the second successive season.

The Spaniard is well aware of the need to do better on home soil this time if they are to avoid the same scenario but, after a loss to Chelsea and a draw with Stoke so far, he is not in too much of a hurry.

Martinez said: "The way we finished last season was very strong and we were very consistent over the last third of the season. Of course we need to get wins and positive results but how we're going to get them is more important to me at this stage.

"We really looked forward to coming back to the DW Stadium and we've had two very different games so far. Fulham is going to be something different, too. That's what this league brings you and we need to be ready."

Wigan's only injury doubt is centre-back Antolin Alcaraz, who continues to recover from a groin strain picked up on international duty and will have a late fitness test.