ROBERTO Martinez expects Antolin Alcaraz to play a key role in Wigan Athletic’s hopes of pulling away from the relegation dogfight.
But the big Paraguayan won’t be rushed back for Saturday’s tough trip to Chelsea.
Alcaraz hasn’t been spotted in Latics colours since the Capital One Cup victory at Nottingham Forest at the end of August thanks to a serious groin injury picked up on international duty.
The 30-year-old is finally over the problem but, despite a successful run-out in a behind-closed-doors friendly, is obviously woefully short of match sharpness.
And Martinez is determined to ease him back gently rather than throw him in and risk a further setback.
“Antolin has been working really hard behind the scenes and is nearly there, although he won’t be okay for the weekend,” he told the Evening Post.
“But I wouldn’t be surprised if he is very close to make the FA Cup game (at either Leicester or Huddersfield) the following week. He has been out for a long time but slowly he is adapting back to full training with the group.
“We’re hoping there won’t be a reaction, and he would be a massive boost for us to have him back.”
The return of Alcaraz could not come at a better time for Martinez, who has seen injuries deplete his rearguard for much of the campaign.Ivan Ramis has already been ruled out for the season with knee ligament damage, while Emmerson Boyce is nursing a hamstring strain and Gary Caldwell was a late injury cry-off from Scotland’s friendly against Estonia last night.
Martinez now faces an anxious wait until the rest of his international brigade return from serving their countries in midweek, as he finalises his preparations for the Chelsea game.
Injury once again prevented Ryo Miyaichi from joining up with the Japan squad, but Martinez hopes to see the on-loan Arsenal flyer back before too long.
“Ryo will be like a new signing when he regains full fitness,” the Wigan boss added. “Probably a couple of weeks ago I thought he would be out for a long period, but we have had very good news from the doctor and he will be back in contention within a fortnight. The consultant in Japan examined him, and next week’s FA Cup tie will hopefully be the start of his season.
“Albert Crusat is also not far away, but there is a complication in his tendon and that makes it a little bit more difficult to put a date on it.”