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Kewell On Knockout Clash With Sunderland

7 December 2020

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Latics host Sky Bet League One side Sunderland tomorrow (6pm) at Boundary Park in the Papa John’s Trophy and Head Coach, Harry Kewell, gave his thoughts ahead of the encounter.

With his side comfortably topping the Northern Group F of the competition, Kewell is keen to make sure the players continue to have the right mindset heading into the game.

"Of course, we're looking forward to it. It's a huge game against a fantastic team. I know they're going through a bit of a rough patch like all of us have, but they've got a new manager, so I think it's going be a difficult game for us.

"A lot of players are going to want to impress Lee, so I think it's going be a tough test for us, but we'll be up for the challenge. It's always important when you enter a competition that you set out to win it.

"And if you have that mindset, don't get me wrong, you're always going to come up against bigger and better teams, but if you have that mindset and the overall mentality is right from the outset, you've always got a good chance."

The Head Coach has already been impressed with the lads performances against higher-ranked teams this season and wants his players to keep up with the standards they’ve already set in that regard.

"As far as playing an opposition that's at a higher level, it's always great. We've come across Doncaster this season, and we played Lincoln in pre-season, so two great teams and we performed very well so I'm hoping we can replicate it against Sunderland.

"Great teams perform at every opportunity they get and the opportunity that we have tomorrow to progress in the competition is fantastic. So, we will give it our all.

"Obviously, there will be some changes, only because of the pitch at the weekend has taken its toll and Harry Clarke is cup-tied. And with the games coming thick and fast in the winter I have to be mindful that. We have a few slight little injury worries but we have a squad ready to go out there and perform."

Former Latics manager Lee Johnson has, recently, been appointed as the man in charge of the Black Cats and he will be looking to turn his side’s form around early on.

"They've played a certain way under Phil Parkinson and now Lee Johnson’s just taken over, he's only had his first game at the weekend. It's very hard to just slot in and try and change something straight away but he's got the experience, he knows what he's capable of doing as well.

"I'm sure he will look at this as a great opportunity to see what his players can do, he'll come with a strong team because everybody wants to be in his first 11, so they're going to want to impress him. We may have to look back to see what he’s done at Bristol City previously to get an idea of his style because I think he’ll completely change it from the weekend after their loss."

Kewell is also trying to manage his players fitness throughout this busy schedule but states that they’re eager to get onto the pitch.

"It's always better to play games than to train. But you've also got to be careful of playing too many games. We're trying our best to look after them the best way we can with the support and resources available.

"But that's why you try and create a bigger squad, you've got to try and keep everyone happy enough but when there's an opportunity again to play in a competition when you have a realistic chance of making it to Wembley, you've got to take it. It's not often you get a chance to play at stages like that so we have to give it our all and we will be up for the challenge, I'm really excited for it."

He added: "I mean don't get me wrong, I'm not going to be changing it too much. And we've got one or two players that are coming back from injury, so we have to be quite careful of that.

"The ones fit enough are all chomping at the bit to show me what they're capable of doing and it is a good opportunity to see that."

Latics are yet to replicate their impressive away form at Boundary Park and Kewell believes fans will play a big part in that when they’re eventually allowed to return.

"I am very happy about our away form but I'm not too pleased with my home performances, especially in five of the games where I've been disappointed. But the reaction I've got in the next game, whether we've been home or away has been excellent.

"For me, it's just about keeping the momentum going. We're still a young team and I'm looking forward to hopefully getting supporters in because that will change the atmosphere. I can't wait to see fans back in Boundary Park because like at the weekend it was great to see and feel an atmosphere and the players naturally enjoyed it.

"At this level it's all about results and seeing your side win, but supporters can also appreciate good football when they see it."


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