12:30 PM UTC
Leg 1
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By ESPN Staff

Roberto Martinez impressed by Michael Ball

Michael Ball could be on the brink of resurrecting his career with Wigan, although manager Roberto Martinez is remaining cautious over talk of a deal for the left back.

Ball has spent the last few weeks training with the Latics in a bid to regain his fitness after undergoing surgery in January to his left patella tendon.

After two-and-a-half years with Manchester City, the 30-year-old left-back was released in July upon the expiry of his contract. Ball has since found refuge at Wigan, and this week played in a behind-closed-doors friendly in which he and Angola international defender Francisco Zuela were assessed.

Wigan boss Roberto Martinez has been impressed with Ball, who may yet be offered a contract if the club are unable to hold onto Maynor Figueroa in next month's transfer window.

"Michael has been working with us for a long time,'' said Martinez. "He's had a lot of problems with his injury, but he is recovering, trying to get match fitness, and now he is looking sharp, looking ready.

"He's got great experience, he's a great influence and it's great to have him around, but at the moment he is simply regaining his fitness. We're just enjoying having a very experienced player around with great standards who is good for our daily work.''

Martinez, though, will not be pursuing Zuela, who is currently with Russian side FC Kuban. "We had a look at Francisco, and he's been with us for a few days, but there is nothing further on that,'' confirmed Martinez.

Goalkeeper Chris Kirkland, meanwhile, is rated as "touch and go'' for Saturday's Premier League clash at Stoke. Kirkland was forced off midway through the first half of the 3-2 defeat by Birmingham at the DW Stadium at the weekend with a recurrence of a back spasm.

"We had the scan done, and we all know we've had this situation with Chris before, so we're well aware,'' remarked Martinez. "We'll carry on treating it the same way and we'll see how long it will be for Chris to be available.

"We're not going to set a time. We'll assess it and give him as much time as he needs and see when he'll be available. We'll do everything we can and make a decision nearer kick-off, but he'll be touch and go.''

Martinez will turn to either Mike Pollitt or Ghana's Richard Kingson should Kirkland be ruled out.


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