ROBERTO Martinez admits Antolin Alcaraz is ahead of schedule as he recovers from a groin problem.
But the Paraguayan defender won’t be fit enough to return at Swansea this weekend.
Alcaraz hasn’t made a Premier League appearance since the victory at Southampton on August 25 – which coincidentally was Wigan’s last three points.
His sending-off in the Capital One Cup-tie at Nottingham Forest saw him suspended for the Stoke game, and the following week he returned injured from international duty.
“Antolin has been progressing slowly, but it was a very bad area to get an injury and that has been shown with the length of time it has taken him to recover,” Martinez told the Evening Post.
“The work has been slow but he will benefit a lot from what he has done over the last few weeks at the training ground.
“It’s still hard to assess how long it will be before he is back out on the pitch.
“But I don’t think he is anywhere near to being in a pain-free level at the moment.
“We’ll still have to take things very slowly, step by step, and take it from there
“But I can’t see any way he’ll be fully-fit to be able to play this weekend.
“To do that, he has to get over the feeling on pain you are left with when you have that kind of soft-tissue injury, and he’s not there yet.”
However, the Wigan boss admitted the prognosis wasn’t all bad.
“He’s probably around five or six days ahead of where we thought he’d be at this stage, so in many ways we’re pleased with that,” Martinez added.
“But the important thing now is not to put too much pressure on him, because the last thing we need now is a reaction.”
Martinez will be wary of a repeat of the beginning of last term, when Alcaraz was fast-tracked back into the side after a limited pre-season due to the Cop America.
He broke down in his first game back - ironically at Swansea - and was sidelined for two months with a pulled thigh muscle.
Alcaraz’s absence means no rest for Gary Caldwell and Maynor Figueroa, who both played twice for their respective countries during the international break.
Caldwell couldn’t prevent Scotland suffering back-to-back defeats to Wales and Belgium that virtually ends their hopes of qualifying for the World Cup.
There was better news for Figueroa and Honduras, who progressed to the next stage of qualification with a 0-0 draw in Panama and an 8-1 thrashing of Canada.
Jean Beausejour could also be asked to back-up despite playing for Chile in their defeats to Ecuador and Argentina.