Caldwell has key role as Wigan battle to beat drop

WIGAN manager Roberto Martinez expects Gary Caldwell to fill the void left by the injured Antolin Alcaraz in their battle to avoid relegation.

Alcaraz’s hamstring problem, sustained 15 minutes into Saturday’s 2-0 defeat by West Ham United, is a major blow to the Latics’ survival bid. The Paraguay international, who missed six months with a groin injury earlier in the season, is also at risk of missing the FA Cup final.

It means that captain Caldwell’s return to the starting line-up against the Hammers – his first start since 2 March – is timely.

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“It is vitally important to have Gary back with all the experience he brings and he looked sharp and ready for the end of the season,” said Martinez.

“Antolin had the scans and he has a bit of a tear in his hamstring, which is what we expected, but we got fortunate he stopped playing at the moment he did.

“We will treat him and see how quickly he will respond but it will take the best part of three weeks.

“Antolin was in a good form so the focus is to get him back before the end of the season.

“It has been one of the those seasons which, for one reason or another, we have had a difficult time with certain injuries.

“Ivan Ramis had a cruciate ligament injury, Ben Watson broke his leg and Albert Crusat bruised a tendon in his knee. We need to get everyone fit and ready over the next few weeks because the demands are huge.”

Midfielder Watson hopes to be able to contribute to the club’s relegation battle after missing five months with a broken leg.

The 27-year-old has not featured for the first team since sustaining the fracture in a clash with Liverpool’s Raheem Sterling on 17 November.

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However, he played 90 minutes for the reserves last week and insists it is now down to manager Martinez when he plays again.

“Hopefully I’m not too far away. After a long-term injury you just want to be out there,” Watson said.

“I think now it is down to the manager whether he wants to put me in or not. Everyone is going to be needed.”