Al Habsi believes in survival

  • Last Updated: April 15 2013, 15:54 BST

Wigan Athletic goalkeeper Ali Al Habsi is adamant the Latics will win their Barclays Premier League survival fight.

Ali Al Habsi: In confident mood

The euphoria of the Latics booking their first FA Cup final appearance came with the added spin that a Europa League place will be theirs too, win or lose, unless Manchester City suffer a catastrophic end to their season.

Only if City finish outside the top four can Wigan be denied European football next season, although if they are beaten at Wembley on May 11 they would enter at the final qualifying round stage at the start of August.

Even that would be a memorable experience for a club who only joined the Football League in 1978 and until 1995 were anchored in the fourth tier of the English pyramid.

Yet the knowledge came with a sobering reality.

With both Aston Villa and Sunderland picking up points at the weekend, Wigan are now three points adrift of safety.

And though they do have two matches in hand, the first of those is against City at the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday.

With Champions League chasing Tottenham and Arsenal also among their final seven opponents, the battle to retain a top-flight status they have clung so desperately to since 2005 is not going to be easy.

But Al Habsi is convinced it will be a successful mission.

"We will do it," said the Oman keeper. "We will stay in the Premier League.

"The FA Cup won't distract us. Our squad is big enough to cope.

"We have been in this situation many times, we believe in ourselves and we will be OK."

Al Habsi can hardly have expected to play such a prominent role in Wigan's semi-final triumph over Millwall.

Axed in the wake of the miserable four-goal home defeat by Liverpool, the 31-year-old had spent the last four matches on the bench as understudy to Joel Robles, who joined on loan from Atletico Madrid during the January transfer window.

As Wigan won three and drew the other of those games, a large question mark had been raised over Al Habsi's status as number one.

Martinez saw fit to recall him at Wembley, although, ever the team man, the former Bolton keeper insisted he would have given just as much to the role of cheerleader.

"I thought maybe I could play at Wembley but in football you have to be ready for anything anyway," he said.

"Sometimes you think you will start and you don't, sometimes think you won't and you do.

"You never know, in the first five minutes the keeper might get injured or get a red card so you have to be professional.

"But this club is like a family. I believe in every single player here. No matter who is starting, if we do the job and win the games, we are all happy."

The key question for Martinez now is how he approaches the remainder of this week.

Players far more experienced in the demands of Wembley have spoken in the past about the draining effects the stadium can have.

With a trip to West Ham looming on Saturday, the Wigan manager must be giving some consideration to making changes for Wednesday's less obviously winnable trip to the Etihad Stadium, and a meeting with the team they will face at Wembley on May 11.

Robles is an option, whilst Gary Caldwell, Franco di Santo, Ronnie Stam, Roger Espinoza and Angelo Henriquez all either play no part, or next to no part at the weekend.

Indeed, in a year when Sir Alex Ferguson spoke extensively about the lack of FA Cup winners in his squad, Henriquez could still provide United with another without actually playing a first-team game for the Old Trafford outfit.

Such is the precarious position Wigan find themselves in, though, that while defeat to City may not be a disaster, a heavy loss would be given the fact goal difference is one of their slender advantages over Aston Villa in particular but also, potentially, Newcastle and Norwich.

And they certainly will not want to lose the feel good factor currently enveloping the DW Stadium.

"We are a small club and we don't have that many fans but they all believe in the team," said Al Habsi.

"To reach the FA Cup final for the first time is amazing.

"But I can promise it won't be a distraction.

"It all has to be done in order, first the league, then the final, then Europe. Brilliant."

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