Alcaraz wants a big finish

Sunderland's James McLean chases down Wigan defender Antolin Alcaraz
Sunderland's James McLean chases down Wigan defender Antolin Alcaraz

ANTOLIN Alcaraz is targeting a solid end to what he readily admits has been ‘a strange season’.

The big centre-back has struggled to get any kind of rhythm going in his second year at Wigan.

Having missed the start of the campaign because of Paraguay’s run all the way to the final of the Copa America, Alcaraz ruptured a quad muscle on his seasonal bow at Swansea and was ruled out for a couple of months.

Four games into his comeback, he picked up a three-match ban following his well-documented spat at Wolves last November.

Then, on his first game back at West Brom, he cracked a rib, before sustaining a torn groin muscle in a training-ground mishap that sidelined him for the second half of January.

All told, Alcaraz has played in 13 and missed 14 of Wigan’s 27 matches this term, although he has come through the last two unscathed – helping Latics pick up a welcome four points in the bargain.

And the former Club Brugges man has two aims for the rest of the season – to finish strongly on a personal level, and help Latics retain their top-flight status.

“It’s been a strange year for me – I’ve had various problems and it’s hard to get something going when you are in and out of the team,” he told the Evening Post.

“I’ve struggled to put three games together before dropping out for whatever reason, and I’m aware the team and the fans have not seen the best of me this year.

“In an ideal world you want to be playing every game, because you can start to build up partnerships with other players as well.

“Hopefully, though, all that is behind me now and I can put in a good run of games between now and the end of the season.”

Alcaraz has slotted back into the fold nicely alongside skipper Gary Caldwell and Maynor Figueroa in a new-look back-three defensive combination.

And he believes Latics are more than capable of hauling themselves out of the drop zone – if they can maintain the level of performance they showed at Bolton last weekend.

“There are many games left and many points to play for, and it’s so tight at the bottom that no-one knows for sure how many points it’s going to take to stay up,” he added.

“It’s going to be difficult, but we’ll be doing everything we can to stay in the Premier League.

“We needed those three points at Bolton, because some of the other teams at the bottom managed to win so we had to keep up.

“Winning is a great habit to get in to, and in some ways it’s a shame we’ve had a week off and couldn’t build on that straight away.

“All we can do is focus on the next game, though, and building on the confidence when we play Aston Villa on Saturday.”