ROBERTO Martinez would be “very surprised” if defender Antolin Alcaraz isn’t in the squad for tomorrow’s huge game at Reading.
The defender last made an appearance in the Capital One Cup clash away at Nottingham Forest in August.
Alcaraz has endured a lengthy and frustrating lay-off since though, with a groin injury picked up while on international duty afterwards.
Martinez revealed a few weeks ago that the Paraguayan was fully fit once again but has been reluctant to throw him into the mix until he is match fit. There was hope the 30-year-old would make the trip to Huddersfield in the FA Cup last week, with his manager saying there was a “chance” he’d play some part.
Now though, Martinez is much more positive on Alcaraz’s chances.
“I consider him fully fit and I think it’s the first time I’m going to consider Antolin for the squad tomorrow,” said the Latics boss.
“In one way or another, I do feel it’s just making sure that we give him the right introduction to the team because obviously he’s been out since September.
“It’s not just a case of being fully fit, it’s just getting full match fitness and making sure he’s ready.
“The first time he’ll come back, it’ll be to stay and make sure he helps the team until the end of the season.
“I would say that, depending how the sessions go, I would be very surprised if Antolin doesn’t make the squad.”
Martinez is also sweating on the fitness of Emmerson Boyce and Ryo Miyaichi.
Boyce has been missing since picking up a hamstring injury at Stoke in January.
Like Alcaraz, he was hoping to make the squad last week but he is now very much in the frame to return tomorrow.
According to Martinez, Miyaichi is “probably a little behind” the two defenders but will assess his fitness ahead of the trip to the Madjeski Stadium.
Last week’s FA Cup victory over Huddersfield has provided further “positive” headaches for Martinez with a number of fringe players impressing.
And the Latics boss says that those performances haven’t just served to boost those players in training but also those who regularly play in league games.
Martinez added: “It brings competition to the players who play in the league but don’t play in the cup and for me opens team selection.
“If you’ve got a player that performs well and does well, he’ll end up playing.
“When I arrived at Wigan Athletic we never had a good run in the cup, apart from the League Cup in the first Premier League season where we got into the final, because the squad has never been big enough.
“When I say big enough, it’s having a group of players that are capable of fighting for two competitions.
“That can only be positive to the league form, in terms of players, in terms of confidence and in terms of belief.
“Every player now doesn’t take their position for granted because he knows now for sure there are one or two waiting on the wings to take that opportunity and that’s what you need in a football club.”