ROBERTO Martinez has warned Latics to beware a wounded animal when Latics travel to Sunderland on Saturday.
The Black Cats have lost eight of their last nine matches, having endured a miserable time following the sale of star striker Darren Bent in January.
A win for the visitors at the Stadium of Light would see Latics – bottom of the Premier League only last week – move to within a single point of the Black Cats.
But Martinez insists Steve Bruce’s side cannot be taken lightly, regardless of their wretched recent form.
He told the Evening Post: “The Stadium of Light is never an easy place to go, especially at the moment with Sunderland in a difficult position.
“They will be looking for that one win that will probably keep them in the Premier League, and that will make it a tough encounter.
“I don’t think you can choose a right or wrong time to be playing an opponent.
“All you can do is control the things you can control – such as your own moment of form – and I just feel that over the past eight games we’ve reached a high level.
“Competition for places is as good as it has been, and our players – physically, mentally and technically – are at their best moment of the season.
“We’ll have to show a great composure and maturity on Saturday, because they’ll put us under massive pressure.
“Playing three games in a row on the road was always going to be tough, but we played well at Chelsea and Blackpool, and we aim to do the same this weekend.”
Sunderland will be led from the front by ex-Latics enforcer Lee Cattermole although another Wigan old boy, Titus Bramble, has been ruled out for the season with knee ligament damage.
“Titus is a really experienced defender, and any team that loses a man of his know-how would be affected,” Martinez added.
“As a manager you can’t really do anything about it, and hopefully he makes a speedy recovery.”
One man looking forward to the game is Momo Diame, who scored his first Latics goal in the 1-1 draw on Wearside last year.
The newly-capped Senegal international is playing arguably the best football of his Wigan career at present after a spell out of the team, and Martinez believes he can only get better.
“Momo has found his best form at exactly the right time,” the gaffer added.
“Making his international debut has given him that extra degree of maturity, which can only improve him as a player.”