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Sunderland-Wigan Athletic Preview
(AP) -- LONDON (SE) - Sunderland travel to the DW Stadium to face Wigan on Tuesday full of confidence following their win against league leaders Manchester City on New Year's Day.
The Black Cats have picked up ten points from a possible 15 since the arrival of Martin O'Neill, a run that has seen them pull clear of the relegation zone, and the new manager was full of praise for his side after the 1-0 win on Sunday.
"The team gave absolutely everything today," said O'Neill. "I've been saying that for the last couple of weeks now, the effort has been fantastic, but today it was overwhelming. I really couldn't speak any higher of these lads. Their effort was fantastic; the crowd's was too. They really helped get us over the line.
"Simon Mignolet has just come into training this past week. He had a mask fitted about 10 days ago and with Keiren Westwood being ill, he stepped in and was fantastic. Sebastian Larsson has been ill, he couldn't get out of bed yesterday but decided this morning he would go for it, whether he lasted 10 minutes or half an hour - he did fantastically. Lee Cattermole was also brilliant and the two fullbacks - who are midfield players - put in an incredible effort throughout the game.
"The three points are of paramount importance to us as we're in a real dogfight. I know that sounds strong, but it's true - we need points and it's so important. We had chances ourselves and I accept the fact that Manchester City are a brilliant side and they'll go very close to winning the league this year. They camped outside our box for 10-15 minutes and we couldn't get the ball. We threw bodies in front of shots and it was just a great effort all round.
"When Ji came on to score that goal, icing on the cake seems to spring to mind! It was sensational, fantastic and it was shared by 40,000 of us."
Wigan's 2-2 draw at Stoke on New Year's Eve ensured that the Latics go in 2012 with renewed confidence of avoiding the drop, and manager Roberto Martinez credited the attitude of penalty taker Ben Watson for the result - with the midfielder taking the spot-kick with his first touch after coming on as a substitute.
"In football, it's not being brave, it's trying to do the right things," said the Spaniard. "Taking a penalty is something of a specialist and we have got two specialists at the club: Jordi Gomez and Ben Watson.
"Jordi Gomez wasn't on the pitch at that time and it would have been very unfair, or a big gamble, to put another player in that position. Ben Watson, for me, is technically one of the best players in English football and that's his forte; his concentration. The big thing is he showed that he was ready for the team. I had a real belief and confidence in him."
Sunderland have doubts over Craig Gordon (knee) and Connor Wickham (knee), while Michael Turner (knee) and Fraizer Campbell (knee) are closing in on first-team returns. Wigan have concerns over Chris Kirkland (back) and Emmerson Boyce (hamstring).
Updated January 1, 2012