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Newcastle United v Wigan Athletic: Preview
Published : 15 Oct 2010 20:19:17
Newcastle boss Chris Hughton is strapping himself in for a white-knuckle ride as he attempts to guide the club to Barclays Premier League safety.
The Magpies have made a creditable start to life back in the top flight, but have only seven points to show for their efforts from as many games after losing their last two.
They were unfortunate to go down 2-1 at Manchester City last time out when they conceded a questionable penalty and were then denied a spot-kick of their own.
But having lost to both Blackpool and Stoke at St James' Park after routing Aston Villa 6-0 in their opening home fixture, they entertain Wigan desperately needing to stop the rot if they are to renew confidence that they can make a fist of life among the big boys.
Hughton said: "When we came back into this division, we knew it wasn't going to be easy, but we are where we are.
"We are a team that was relegated over a year ago which had a very good season last season - but we know there are going to be ups and downs when you look at the quality in this division.
"The most important thing for us is coping with the defeats. We are a side which went through a season last season where we didn't have too many defeats.
"We knew we would have defeats this season and it is how you respond and bounce back from those defeats which is going to be a really important aspect of our game."
The game will see Charles N'Zogbia return to St James' Park and he is certain to receive a less than hospitable welcome after persistently agitating to leave the club before his wish was granted.
A diplomatic Hughton said: "He is certainly an exciting player and the most important thing is we would like to keep him reasonably quiet on the football pitch."
Meanwhile, Wigan manager Roberto Martinez wants referees to become increasingly vigilant so that skilful players can perform without fear.
Martinez's side face a Newcastle team who are without the services of Hatem Ben Arfa.
The 23-year-old midfielder, who is on loan from Marseille, suffered a double fracture of his leg following a challenge from Manchester City's Nigel de Jong that was widely criticised.
While Martinez does not wish to see tackling outlawed, he is keen for players to act with care.
He said: "The Premier League has a competitive edge. Tackling is an art and needs to be in the game.
"You need to be accurate, not reckless, as you risk a red card, letting your team down and letting yourself down.
"It is a thin line between a player getting injured or winning a challenge. It is important the referees get these decisions right so we can protect the creative players. Those are the types of players the fans want to see.
"Maybe 15-20 years ago you had footballers playing football. Now you have athletes playing football.
"That means the speed and the power of every challenge is different. You don't want to see players missing months of a season because of a bad tackle."
Goalkeeper Ali Al Habsi is set to retain his place in the team after recovering from a stomach virus, but Antolin Alcaraz is doubtful with an ankle problem.