Coyle not afraid of Rubin threat
Wigan boss Owen Coyle is in no doubt that Rubin Kazan are the favourites to win Europa League Group D but feels his side have what it takes to beat the Russian outfit at the DW Stadium on Thursday.
In Rubin, the Latics - in their debut continental campaign - are hosting a club that are playing in Europe for a fifth successive season.
They competed in the Champions League group stages in 2009-10 and 2010-11, were eliminated at the quarter-final stage of the Europa League last season by Chelsea and their two Group D games so far this term have seen them beat Maribor 5-2 and Zulte Waregem 4-0.
It looks a tough assignment for Wigan, something Coyle certainly acknowledges.
But he has been encouraged by his players' efforts in drawing 0-0 with Zulte away and defeating Maribor 3-1 at home.
And looking ahead to Thursday's contest, the Scot, whose team are currently 13th in the Sky Bet Championship, said: "Both performances have been terrific in different ways. Tomorrow night we will need to be of the same standard.
"Rubin are a fantastic side and favourites for the group but we have an opportunity to go above them tomorrow night, and if we play to our level we certainly believe we can win the game.
"We are under no illusions about how difficult it will be. This is a quality side. They have a tremendous European pedigree.
"But this is an exciting time for everyone at Wigan Athletic. The fans have really embraced the competition, we have and we want to progress and qualify.
"We know we have to be focused and concentrated for the entirety of the match because if you lose that, with the quality they have, then you will be punished.
"It is a great learning curve for everybody and the players are really enjoying that.
"They are enjoying competing against different nationalities, cultures and everything that comes with it. It has been a fantastic adventure and we want it to continue."
Shaun Maloney is the only member of Wigan's Europa League squad not available for the match.
The midfielder, whose last appearance came in mid-September, is set to undergo a hip operation and has been ruled out for a minimum of three months.
Coyle has confirmed defender Stephen Crainey is fit to feature again after a four-game absence and that striker Grant Holt, not involved in the Latics' first two Europa League matches, will start.
Holt admits the lure of European football was an important factor in his decision to join Wigan from Norwich over the summer and that he is raring to take part in a continental fixture for the first time.
Holt, who has played in Wigan's last two Championship matches after missing seven games in all competitions due to a knee injury, said: "It has been frustrating to miss all the matches I have.
"I didn't really get much pre-season and had to catch up a little bit with the lads.
"Then I was just starting to find my feet a little bit form and fitness-wise, and to get the knock and be out for several weeks has not been fantastic but it has given me a chance to watch, learn and see the games.
"I am looking forward to this. I came here for challenges and this is certainly one I came to get involved in. I just can't wait to get out there."
Asked if he had been watching Russian football in preparation and was up to speed with it, the 32-year-old added: "No, not at all!
"With three kids, the only thing I watch is Wigan games and then I go home and watch Peppa Pig!"
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