Wigan face a defensive crisis ahead of Saturday’s home clash with Sunderland in the Premier League.
The Latics were dealt a huge blow with Ivan Ramis ruled out for the rest of the season after it was confirmed he ruptured his cruciate ligament in Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Fulham.
Manager Roberto Martinez feared for the worst immediately after the game but will not be comforted by the fact Antolin Alcaraz is still yet to return after suffering a groin injury in August, while Adrian Lopez is also out.
Alcaraz would be the most likely candidate to step in but 20-year-old Roman Golobart or Emmerson Boyce may have to deputise with reinforcements not yet forthcoming in the January transfer window.
Martinez admitted the defence was a major concern following the former Real Mallorca star’s mishap.
“Nothing can disguise the fact this is a massive blow because Ivan is a key member of the group but we are relieved that the injury is not a severe as we feared it could have been,” Martinez said.
Wigan are clear in the safety zone only on goal difference while Sunderland have pulled clear of the mire with four wins in their past eight league games.
Captain Lee Cattermole’s return from injury was the only positive though in the Black Cats’ mid-week FA Cup third-round replay loss to Bolton.
The midfield enforcer is vitally important to manager Martin O’Neill’s system of play and he played a quarter-of-an-hour in an otherwise lacklustre 2-0 defeat to their Championship opponents.
His return ahead of schedule from a knee injury sustained in November was a major plus while leading scorer Steven Fletcher was due to start before falling ill shortly before the Bolton game.
Both Cattermole and Fletcher should be fit to face Wigan while winger Ahmed Elmohamady is also available again after O’Neill recalled him from his season-long loan at Hull.
“I actually thought about starting the game with Lee but I wasn’t sure how long he would last physically,” O’Neill said.
“To have him back though is good and I’m hoping he can be fit for us now between now and the end of the season.
“Steven Fletcher was feeling a bit ill and we sent him home and by 4.30pm he was so unwell he couldn’t make it.
“I’m just hoping he’ll be all right for Saturday.”