Martinez ready for Norwich City
Wigan manager Roberto Martinez is expecting a tough challenge when his side take on Norwich City at the DW Stadium in their opening game of the new Premier League season.
The Canaries end a six season exile from the top flight when they head to the north-west on August 13 to take on a Latics' outfit humbled 4-0 at home by newly-promoted Blackpool in last season's curtain raiser.
Martinez's side face all three promoted clubs during the first month of the new campaign and the highly-rated young manager is confident Wigan will be ready for the Canaries' visit.
'It's true that we had the experience of last campaign playing a promoted side,' he said. 'It is harder to play these sides earlier on in the season when they have got that extra bit of energy – following the excitement and success they had the previous season. They are three clubs who will be very confident of staying in the Premier League – and I expect it to be an even tougher competition this year.
'It's a clich� but there are really no easy games in the Premier League. It's always hard to play them because the Premier League can be quite damaging. It's a really tough league and when you get nasty blows it can affect you as a team and a football club. The fact we are playing them in the first three games we know they are going to be as fresh as they can be and full of energy and emotion. As we saw last season, we know what to expect so we have to be prepared for that, in terms of how we work in pre-season, to handle it.'
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Martinez's side followed up their mauling against the Tangerines with a 6-0 defeat at Chelsea – City's very next away league opponents on August 27. The Wigan boss believes that horrendous start set the tone for a difficult season which saw the Latics' only escape relegation on the final day at Stoke.
'It was the combination of many aspects,' he said. 'We started the season with a lot of changes in the playing squad and we found ourselves thrown against a team who surprised everyone; in the manner that Blackpool can really hurt you on the counter-attack with their attacking football and then we played a Chelsea side who were in the best moment of their season. The first three months they were outstanding so we started the season with minus ten goals conceded and none scored and it is really difficult. I was even prouder at how we reacted and faced the moment and how we found solutions to play the way we did.
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'Internally at the club, the aim is to start the season with the same intensity we finished, because the last 15 games were of a very good standard. The home form in the first half of the season and the second half was so different. That is very important when you get that first home win or that first home performance. To be able to play the first game at the DW Stadium is a great opportunity for us.'
Martinez has also rallied the home fans to play their part on August 13 with season ticket sales up 50pc on last season. The Canaries' travelling support will take up their full allocation for the club's Premier League return to guarantee a raucous atmosphere.
'The fans need to play their part and that is why it is exciting to play the first game at home,' said Martinez. 'We have a strong core of fans who are passionate about the club and it's important everything we do here is for the fans. Every season the competition gets tougher. Every team is competitive at this level and we need to be ready for another huge challenge. The evidence is there after six seasons and especially the experience of last season with two teams relegated on the highest total of points for eight seasons. With Norwich and QPR getting promoted automatically and Swansea through the play-offs, they are going to have great confidence and fight to stay in there.'