ANTOLIN Alcaraz could miss the first third of the Premier League campaign after scans revealed the big Paraguayan ruptured a thigh muscle at Swansea last weekend.
The Wigan centre-back was making his first appearance of the campaign at the Liberty Stadium, having only been back at the club for a fortnight following his exertions at the Copa America.
Alcaraz was fast-tracked straight back into the side because of injuries to Steve Gohouri and Adrian Lopez, but the gamble backfired on Roberto Martinez when he was forced off after just 37 minutes.
And the Wigan boss admits the prospect of being without his defensive rock until the beginning of December is a devastating pill to swallow.
“We’re hoping he’ll only be out for six or seven weeks, but the worst-case scenario is two months, maybe even three,” Martinez told the Evening Post.
“You have to be very, very careful when it comes to soft-tissue injuries, because if you come back too early you are risking further damage.
“On the plus side, Antolin is a very fit boy with a very strong character, which gives you hope he’ll be back sooner rather than later – but it is a major, major blow for us.”
The challenge that forced Alcaraz off against Swansea was innocuous enough, but Martinez believes the seeds for the injury were sown over 12 months ago.
“I feel it’s probably a culmination of his intense workload over the past two years,” Martinez opined.
“He came to us from Bruges last summer, went straight to the World Cup without a proper rest, was thrown into his first taste of the Premier League, then straight back to the Copa America this summer where Paraguay reached the final, and then straight back into the Premier League with only minimal rest.
“Sometimes success comes at a price – and in this case we are going to miss Antolin badly over the next few weeks.
“Probably it’s a message from Antolin’s body that enough is enough, and that he needs a little bit of a regeneration period – which we’ll make sure he gets.”
Martinez also absolved the player himself of any blame for wanting to get out there before he was ready to play.
“You cannot blame the player or the medical department in this instance,” the Spaniard added.
“You have to blame the manager and I take full responsibility for what happened.
“Because of the injuries in the squad, I had to take a bit of a gamble and unfortunately we got punished extremely harshly.
“All we can do now is help Antolin to recover fully and make sure he is back fit and raring to go for the remaining two-thirds of the season.”