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 By Mike Whalley

Martinez glad FA has seen sense

Everton manager Roberto Martinez believes playing the FA Cup final at the end of the season will ensure no club are "punished" like his Wigan side were.

Wigan chairman Dave Whelan celebrates winning the FA Cup with his manager, Roberto Martinez.
Wigan chairman Dave Whelan celebrates winning the FA Cup with his manager, Roberto Martinez.

Martinez, who won the competition with the Latics last May before moving to Goodison Park a month later, is looking to maintain his hold on the trophy as he prepares for Sunday’s fifth-round home tie against Swansea.

The FA Cup final has traditionally been played a week after the scheduled end of the regular league campaign. But for the last three seasons, the match has been played a week before the final round of Premier League fixtures.

Traditionalists argue that such rescheduling has removed some of the glamour from a match that was a showpiece event in the English football calendar long before the Premier League was formed in 1992. And this season, the final has been restored to its usual place after the league fixtures have been completed.

Martinez feels that playing the cup final early presents practical problems as well as issues for traditionalists. Last season, his Wigan side were embroiled in a battle for Premier League survival as they prepared to face Manchester City in the FA Cup final.

Having won 1-0 at Wembley, they then had to travel to Arsenal for a league fixture three days later -- with a 4-1 defeat condemning the Latics to the Championship.

Martinez said: "Clearly it’s a good sign that the FA Cup final is the last game of the season. For any club going into the final week of the season, whatever your aim is in the league, you shouldn’t get punished by playing in the FA Cup final.

"It should be the opposite. It should be a real moment to treasure, a moment to enjoy. I really think that’s the right thing for every club involved in both competitions."

Martinez has always rejected the argument that Wigan’s cup run distracted them from the task of Premier League survival last season. Instead, he has pointed to the run of injuries that hampered his squad. And having brought the cup to Wigan for the first time in the club’s history, he is keen to win it again and end Everton’s 19-year wait for a trophy.

He said: "Success in the cup can really help in the league, and the other way round. It’s just a case of finding enough strength in the squad to face both competitions, if you get a fixture pile-up. This season, it works really well, as the FA Cup final is the last game on the calendar.

"Last year, that wasn’t the case, and I don’t think it’s helpful to play the FA Cup final the weekend before the final league game of the season. It meant we had three games in the final week. I think the FA Cup final should always be the last game of the season. That’s the case this year.

"The longer you stay in a cup competition, the better the momentum you carry with you into every game around that. It’s important that we’re as good as we can be in every game we go into in both competitions."

Striker Lacina Traore is in line to make his debut against Swansea as he steps up his recovery from a hamstring problem sustained shortly before he joined Everton on loan from Monaco in January.

Centre-back Antolin Alcaraz is recovering from muscle fatigue and will not play, while forward Romelu Lukaku is still getting back to fitness after injuring his ankle against Liverpool on Jan. 28.

Full-back Bryan Oviedo (broken leg), striker Arouna Kone and midfielder Darron Gibson (knee) are all out with long-term injuries.


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