ANTOLIN Alcaraz insists Wigan Athletic will retain their Premier League status – if they can keep their heads.
Last weekend’s draw at Aston Villa, coupled with Wolves’ victory over West Brom, means Latics have slipped to 19th spot with just two matches remaining.
It means the visit of rock-bottom West Ham on Sunday can legitimately be called ‘must-win’ if Latics want to go into the last weekend of the campaign with a realistic shot at staying up.
And Alcaraz [pictured] has called on the Wigan side to play the game and not the occasion to give themselves every chance.
“We know it’s the most important game of the season against West Ham, and we’ll be giving it everything,” Alcaraz told the Evening Post.
“It’s up to us to win the game and we’ll be doing everything we can to do that.
“The key thing is, the mentality of the team has to be right. And if that is right then anything is possible.”
Latics go into the game on the back of successive 1-1 draws against Villa and Everton, but must go for all three against a Hammers side who will be relegated if they fail to win.
“I think it was a good performance and a good point at Villa,” Alcaraz added.
“We had a few opportunities to win the game, and you have to remember it’s not an easy place to go and get a result.
“They make it hard for you and I thought we did well to deal with their threats.
“We played well and on another day we could have scored more goals. But we’ll only know next week how big a point it was.
“If we can beat West Ham then it could be very, very important.
“The most important thing is to stay together as a group and keep fighting.”
Alcaraz was in the headlines at Villa Park for his role in ex-Latics striker Emile Heskey completely losing the plot and being extremely fortunate to avoid a red card.
Heskey came off second best in an aerial collision with the Paraguayan, but took his remonstrations with referee Mike Jones way too far in barging into the official and then placing his head in the face of Jones.
The Villa man had to be restrained by a number of players – including Emmerson Boyce – before being shown a yellow card, and was led off at half-time by former Wigan team-mate Chris Kirkland.
Alcaraz, though, insists it was all a storm in a teacup.
“It was two players fighting for the ball, and I don’t understand his reaction. I really don’t,” revealed Alcaraz.
“I saw what happened with him and the referee and I didn’t know why it was happening.”