Gaffer aware of QPR threat and wants team to keep up away record
Roberto Martinez hopes his side can maintain their impressive away form this year when they travel to Loftus Road on Sunday to face Queens Park Rangers.
Latics have suffered defeat just once in 2013 away from the DW Stadium, against Chelsea in February, but the Spaniard is well aware of how difficult it will be to keep that run going against Harry Redknapp’s team at the weekend, saying:
“There has been much talk of QPR’s situation because people are guided by the league table and the form they have shown throughout the season.
“But for me this QPR side is a completely different from the one back in August; they are in a good moment of form at home with just one defeat in their last five games at Loftus Road, and are starting to build some good momentum, especially in their forward play.
“The attacking play they’ve shown in the last few games has been as good as anyone’s in the Barclays Premier League and they’ll make for a very difficult game for us.
“Loftus Road can be a testing environment to go and play, but we have to stay focused on being ourselves and showing the away form that has served us well this season.
“Sunday’s is a massive game for us; we’ve got eight games remaining in the league, so we’re nearing the end of the season when the points tally becomes more acute and the need to take points increases.
“Away from home this season we’ve been very competitive, strong, and shown good personality on the pitch, which has allowed us to take control of games.
“That’s a sign of maturity and in the final five away games of the competition it’s important that we maintain those levels.”
Martinez explained how his squad is feeling much fresher ahead of this weekend than they were before taking on Norwich straight after the recent international break, with positive news of Callum McManaman’s recent ankle niggle:
“There’s no real difference to the situation we had before the Norwich game, apart from the recovery of Callum who has had a slight ankle problem in recent weeks.
“He’s looked stronger and a lot fitter in training this week which is positive and Ben Watson has begun training with the rest of the group which is great news for us.
“Overall, the squad is fresher and much more energetic than it was straight after the international break and everyone has got some good work under their belt this week.
“We know that our performances have suffered this season as a result of the travelling players have done during the international games, but to find the answers against Norwich with that in mind was very impressive.
“In the period of training since that game we’ve been able to recharge their batteries and make sure every player is fresh and looking forward to the game.”
It is, of course, the final league game before Wigan Athletic’s FA Cup semi final date with Millwall at Wembley next Saturday, and whilst thoughts of the cup couldn’t be further from the mindset of the players, Martinez admitted that they are playing for their place on the teamsheet for that game:
“In any game, as a player you’re playing for your place in the next match, that’s the nature of the game and the competitive edge we have at our club.
“The next game for us after QPR happens to be the semi final of the FA Cup at Wembley, so it’s fair to say that everyone has been performing to try and be an important member of the team in the final stages of the season.
“The standards the players have set in training have been immense and I think we’re as strong as ever right now; physically the fitness the players are showing is very impressive and that helps the competition for places.”