Wigan V Liverpool at The DW Stadium : Match Preview

02 March 2013 08:32
Wigan V Liverpool - view commentary, squad, and statistics of the game live.

Alcaraz could return to starting XI

Wigan defender Antolin Alcaraz could be back in contention to start against Liverpool in the Barclays Premier League.

The Paraguay international played for the last seven minutes of last week's win at Reading after a six-month lay-off with a groin injury.

Fellow defender Emmerson Boyce also came through his comeback from hamstring trouble unscathed and winger Ryo Miyaichi (ankle) is close to returning after three months out.

Boss Roberto Martinez expects his players to take inspiration from the fans as they fight to beat relegation once again.

Latics' crowds may be among the lowest in the Barclays Premier League but Martinez has regularly hailed their enthusiasm.

This weekend supporters are planning to congregate en masse in the DW Stadium car park to cheer the team as they arrive for their game against Liverpool.

They tried something similar before a game against West Brom last March as Wigan lay bottom of the table.

Wigan played out a 1-1 draw with the Baggies that day but what followed was a remarkable upturn in form which carried them to safety.

Martinez's men won seven of their last nine games - a run which started with victory over Liverpool and included further wins against Manchester United and Arsenal - to beat the drop.

Martinez is planning to arrive at the ground half an hour earlier to make sure his players fully appreciate the fans' efforts this time.

The Spaniard said: "This initiative was a turning point last season and I do hope this can change around the results we have had at home so far.

"It is one of the many examples we have got of how much the fans get involved and how important they are in our preparations and what we do on the pitch.

"The players were shocked to see a lot of fans waiting in the car park and after that they came in with a completely different mental approach.

"They were very happy and they had that positive belief, knowing how important the game was going to be and the rest the season.

"This is our eighth season in the Premier League and we have been fighting with everything to get into the ninth.

"We are developing a strong structure underneath us and the fans are vital for that.

"The fans, and the way they conduct themselves, are one of the reasons we have been able to be successful over the years."

Martinez accepts his side do not boast the individual talents of Liverpool but that does not mean they cannot come out on top.

He said: "We know we need to be at our best.

"They are very creative and inventive in areas, they have got real pace and quality, they are well organised and press really well. They keep the ball extremely well.

Liverpool striker Daniel Sturridge is carrying a knock and will be assessed.

With no game last weekend the Reds have had plenty of time to get over any niggling problems and centre-back Martin Skrtel is fit again after a knee injury, although he is likely to be on the bench.

Forward Fabio Borini (shoulder) and defender Martin Kelly (knee) are the only two first-team players currently sidelined.

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers accepts the philosophies of Wigan boss Martinez gave him a helping hand in his own progress as a coach.

The 40-year-old admits when he took over at Swansea, having been sacked at Reading seven months previously, he benefited from the groundwork done by the Spaniard.

Even though there had been a year of Paulo Sousa's leadership in between at the Liberty Stadium the footprints of Martinez were still there and Rodgers was able to build on those foundations.

It ultimately allowed him to get Swansea promoted to the Barclays Premier League and, on the back of that success, saw him installed at Anfield ahead of Martinez, who was the other leading candidate Fenway Sports Group had identified.

The pair cross paths at the DW Stadium tomorrow - a place where Liverpool have not won since September 2007 despite the Latics' regular battles against relegation - where there will be a meeting of like-minded managers.

"He did a terrific job at Swansea for the couple of years he was there, it made my job easier going in," said the Reds boss.

"I could then work on other aspects. Every manager who comes in after someone you will always respect what he has done.

"Certainly with me and Roberto, he did an excellent job there. I was there to move it on and hopefully move the club forward again."

Source: PA