Hutch delays team selection

Chris Hutchings is prepared to leave his team selection until the last minute for Saturday's clash with Portsmouth.

The Latics boss won't get Antonio Valencia back from international duty with Ecuador until tomorrow morning and then has to see how the flight from South America has affected him.

So it looks like being a late call from Hutchings as he aims to put Latics back on the winning track after four defeats in five games.

Valencia didn't actually play as Ecuador lost 5-0 in their World Cup qualifier against Brazil in Rio in the early hours of this morning.

But Hutchings is anxious to have him back in the Latics team after his spell out with a knee injury.

Hutchings told the Evening Post: "We've got a little bit of jet lag to worry about with Antonio.

"So we will leave things as late as Saturday before naming the side.

"But it will be the same scenario for Portsmouth as they have had a lot of players away."

Valencia's last start was in the 1-1 draw at West Ham on August 25. He has since had keyhole surgery on his knee to trim a torn cartilage.

He returned at Manchester United when coming on as a second-half substitute and almost scoring with his first touch.

Hutchings said: "We know Antonio is an important player for us. But you learn about other players who come in.

"We had Paul Scharner playing that role on the right, and he didn't moan, just got on with the job well.

"It's important no one is bigger than the club – it's about the squad we have."

If Valencia does start against Portsmouth, it will mean a midfield reshuffle.

With Jason Koumas set to shake off a hip injury to take his place on the left, Scharner, Michael Brown, Josip Skoko and Denny Landzaat will contest for two centre midfield spots.

Antoine Sibierski will return to the attack after recovering from a hamstring strain, while skipper Mario Melchiot will have his thigh strain tested tomorrow.

Hutchings said: "Hopefully Mario will be okay. He's had a scan on this thigh and has had intensive treatment.

"Antoine will be available. He has come through training in all this week.

"Koumas was due to start training again today after his hip injury, so we do have plenty of selection options.

"It's good to have a game to work towards after the international break.

"The lads who have stayed here have worked hard.

"Portsmouth is a big game for us, as they all are. They are probably one of the in form teams at the moment."