Latics at full strength

Posted Saturday, September 12, 2009 by PA

Wigan manager Roberto Martinez has almost a fully-fit squad for the visit of West Ham to the DW Stadium.

Forward Olivier Kapo has returned to training this week after a knee ligament injury sustained in pre-season but will take some time to get match-fit.

Midfielder Jason Koumas has recovered from a muscle problem which kept him out of the Latics' defeat at Everton nearly a fortnight ago.

Martinez will assess the fitness of his international players, particularly those who travelled long distances like Hondurans Hendry Thomas and Maynor Figueroa.

The Latics boss may be a huge fan of West Ham boss Gianfranco Zola but he knows the focus will be on securing points and not admiring the football.

Zola took over at Upton Park a year ago with much to prove having only previously coached Italy's Under-21s and whose only Barclays Premier League experience was as a player for Chelsea between 1996 and 2003.

He almost guided his side into Europe last season, finishing just two points outside qualification in ninth place, and despite huge financial pressures at the club has begun this campaign with four points from three games.

Martinez, who has no Premier League playing experience, began life as a top-flight manager with a surprise victory at Aston Villa but has then seen his side lose three successive league matches.

However, he hopes to be able to lay foundations similar to the ones Zola has.

"I admire Gianfranco massively because he never moans - he has had to deal with a lot of problems at the club - and he has found a winning formula," said Martinez.

"The greatest strength of a manager is to adapt to any conditions you have in front of you and Gianfranco has done that.

"I would say West Ham and Wigan are very similar in the way they play and their approach.

"They are probably a little bit more advanced in what they are trying to do than we are but the way West Ham plays is the right way and I'm sure it will be a great advert for Premier League football."

"Games like West Ham are what we need at the moment; games at home where we have to take the responsibility," added the Spaniard.

"West Ham are going to be a hard team to play against because they are attack-minded and I admire the way Gianfranco Zola plays the game.

"They have a great mixture of youth and experience in their squad and every game they have played in they have been very competitive and been difficult to beat.

"We know we will have to be at our best."

West Ham have concerns over midfielder Kieron Dyer's hamstring.

Valon Behrami is back in contention after recovering from a knee problem, while recent signings centre-back Manuel Da Costa and forward Alessandro Diamanti are also included in the squad.

Longer-term absentees Dean Ashton (ankle), Luis Boa Morte (knee) and Herita Ilunga (fractured cheekbone) are still unavailable.

Zola believes his goalkeeper Robert Green can cement a place as England's regular number one if he continues his current good form.

The Hammers boss watched the 5-1 win over Croatia at Wembley in midweek, which sealed a place at the World Cup finals for Fabio Capello's men.

With Portsmouth number one David James recovering from a shoulder operation, and his rivals struggling for consistent form, 29-year-old Green has made the most of the chance, chalking up a seventh cap on Wednesday night.

After suffering a freak groin injury during a 'B' international on the eve of the last World Cup, the former Norwich stopper is keeping his hopes in check of being on the plane to South Africa.

However, Zola believes Green - signed by the Hammers in a #2million deal during August 2006 - has it within his grasp to be England's full-time number one.

"Robert looked very comfortable the other night. He was completely into it.

"I am not surprised because I have been working with him for a year now and he is a player you can rely on. He is consistent and does so well for the team.

"You can rely on a player like him. Right now, it is all in his hands.

"If he keeps performing the way he is, week in and week out, then he can certainly be there. After the first couple of games I was here, Robert was like a machine.

"Above all, he has been very consistent. Plus he is a man who likes working, and spends so much time staying late after training with fitness work or on his technique. He is determined to improve and that is good for him."




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