JAMES McArthur is fighting a losing battle to be fit for the big Premier League opener on Sunday week.
The Scotland midfielder hasn’t featured at all during Latics’ pre-season programme because of back and knee problems.
Boss Roberto Martinez admits he has ‘no chance’ of appearing in Sunday’s final pre-season hit-out against Celta Vigo.
And Martinez isn’t holding out much hope of him making a miraculous recovery in time for the visit of Chelsea on August 19.
“It’s too early to tell at this stage, but it is an area of concern for us,” Martinez told the Evening Post.
“James is progressing well, but slowly. The back is something that’s been bothering him for a while, and when we came back from Austria he felt it a bit more. It’s one of those injuries that doesn’t stop you from training, but when you do work hard it has a delayed reaction – and those are always the most frustrating.
“You probably feel you can get away with doing little bits of training, and knowing James he is the kind of person who wants to do as much as he can.
“We need to make sure he continues to get the right recovery and the right treatment, and we’ll take it day by day.”
The injury setback means McArthur is also behind the rest of his colleagues in terms of pre-season fitness.
“The good thing is James is a strong character and a very fit boy,” Martinez added.
“And when he is given the green light to train and play, it shouldn’t take him too long to regain full fitness.
“His is probably behind the rest of the squad, but he has been doing some additional work and I don’t think it’ll take him too long to get back up to speed.”