Mac likely to miss Arsenal clash

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IT’S looking increasingly likely that James McCarthy’s eagerly-anticipated return from injury will have to wait at least another week.

Latics’ Republic of Ireland international midfielder has been out of action since October when he damaged medial ligaments, and was stretchered off in the 1-1 draw against Bolton Wanderers.

It had been hoped that a return to first-team action for McCarthy might materialise this weekend at Arsenal, but Latics boss Roberto Martinez now doesn’t appear so hopeful.

He said: “James is such a delightful character, he’s been desperate to get involved and his recovery has gone well.

“He has worked really hard behind the scenes, he’s begun training with the group again even though there are certain aspects of the game that he can’t join in with yet.

“He’s not far away, but the Arsenal game is probably looking a little bit too early for him.

“We need to make sure that when a player has been away for a long time you must be 100 per cent so as to avoid any risk of re-injury.

“That’s where we stand with James, but it is great to see his real quality back with us in training.”

There has been further encouraging news on the injury front as Martinez also revealed that fellow midfielder Victor Moses is now back in training four weeks earlier than expected after he suffered a dislocated shoulder in the Carling Cup defeat at Arsenal in November.

Meanwhile, Martinez continues to relish the challenges the Premier League brings as he gears up his preparations for Saturday’s mouth-watering trip to the Emirates Stadium.

This season promises plenty more thrills and spills at the top and down at the bottom.

The Spaniard said: “It’s fascinating at both ends of the table. It’s going to be the best Premier League competition we’ve had for many years in every aspect.

“If you look at the fight to avoid relegation, it’s going to be a brave effort from whoever survives.

“The league is full of good quality football from top to bottom.

“Normally there’s one or two teams that are finding it difficult to pick up points at this stage, but that’s just not the case this season.

“Everyone is targeting such small margins to try and achive their aim so it is going to make it intense and fascinating.

“Some things are going to be much more important than others. There’s the support from the fans that we need, the togetherness that we can show between us, and we must make sure we enjoy the challenge that’s facing us.

“There’’s probably going to be anything up to eight clubs fighting until the last day of the season to try and achieve that aim of avoiding relegation, while at the other end there is proably five teams who will be looking to try and win the title.

“That’s something that you won’t find in any other league around the world. We’re the top league around and that’s crdedit to the Premier League.

“As far as we’re concerned we know how important every single game is now.

“We’re looking at the last 16 games of the competition now, and every game has got an extra significance. We know that.”