Alcaraz ready for cup clash

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ANTOLIN Alcaraz looks set to make his first start in over six months this weekend against Everton as Latics go all-out for Wembley.

The Paraguayan’s last start for Latics was against Nottingham Forest in the Capital One Cup on August 28, when a late red card curtailed his involvement.

A serious groin injury picked up on international duty has since wrecked his campaign, but he has made substitute appearances in the last games as he nears full fitness.

Alcaraz successfully negotiated seven minutes at Reading and half-an-hour against Liverpool - with Latics not conceding while he’s been on the pitch.

And Martinez admits he’s in line for a welcome return to the first XI.

“Antolin’s ready to play an hour now,” the Wigan boss revealed.

“I have said from the beginning that we will never take a chance on him, because he is such an important player for us.

“But he’s adapted quicker than we ever thought, and probably we have had to hold him back a little bit because he has wanted to do more and more.

“We’ll continue to assess him, but after what he did against Liverpool he is someone we now consider fully fit.”

Alcaraz is likely to take the place of Gary Caldwelll, who picked up his ninth domestic booking of the season against Liverpool last weekend.

That means the skipper is one caution away from an automatic two-match suspension, with over a month to go before the cut-off point.

Caldwell hasn’t featured in the FA Cup yet this term and, with a crunch clash against relegation rivals Newcastle up next weekend, it’s a no-brainer for the Latics chief.

Martinez has already hinted he will continue his policy of rotating his squad in the cups, despite being handed a tough trip to Goodison.

Fraser Fyvie and Callum McManaman were left out of the Development Squad in midweek, pointing towards involvement on Saturday.

And the likes of Joel Robles and Roman Golobart are also certain to be involved, with Martinez resisting the temptation to bring back his big guns.

“It will give us another opportunity to have a look at some players, and at the moment there are places in the team for the league games up for grabs,” he added.

“The way things are the competition for places is open, and the way we perform on Saturday will have a massive bearing on the next selection in the league.

“All our games in the cup have been full of changes with young players coming in. That success has given you an x-ray of the development of the football club over the last three or four years.

“But the priority is the Premier League, and it would be very irresponsible for a manager in my position to get that success at a price.

“We cannot punish ourselves in the league just because we want to be successful in the cup.

“We are using the cup games to give opportunities to youngsters but more than that - it has added to the players for the league.

“We have seen Roman Golobart go on to make his Premier League debut, Callum McManaman is growing into his role, Fraser Fyvie is showing the potential we know he has.

“We do want to compete for games at Wembley, but never at a cost.

“It is paramount we achieve our aim of staying in this league. I would never accept anything going against that just for short-term success or a nice picture at Wembley.

“Having said that we will have over 2,000 fans there, and that will make it a special event.

“Every time we have a large travelling support - Blackburn last year, Blackpool the year before - we always seem to overcome the challenge in front of us.”