London: Roberto Martinez is a strong manager who can keep Wigan Athletic in the Premier League, Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini said on the eve of Saturday's FA Cup final against the Spaniard's struggling team.
Wigan's place in the top flight is under threat as they are three points from safety with two matches to play but Mancini believes Martinez can keep them afloat.
"Martinez is a strong manager and he knows this situation very well," the Italian told a pre-final briefing on Friday. The final is the final, it has (no bearing on) what happens in the Premier League. I think they have a good chance to stay in the league."
The clash of the two Robertos - the first time since 1963 that both final managers have shared the same first name - highlights the differences and similarities between the two clubs whose grounds are only 20 miles (32-km) apart. City, thanks to the hundreds of millions of pounds invested by owner Sheikh Mansour of Abu Dhabi, are now one of the richest clubs in the world.
Wigan, in a sense, are a smaller version of City's expensive model. Owner Dave Whelan has ploughed a fortune into the club and they have risen way beyond the old minor league haunts they visited for the first 46 years of their existence. Formed in 1932, they joined the Football League as recently as 1978, still exist on small crowds, but have held their own, largely thanks to Whelan's largesse, in the Premier League since 2005.
Mancini, who ended his club's 35-year wait for a major honour when he guided them to a 1-0 win over Stoke City in the 2011 FA Cup final, does not believe his team are favourites on Saturday even though they are flying high in second place in the league.
"We know that every final is difficult," he said. "I don't think in a final one team can be favourites. Against Stoke we were called favourites but they played very well. I think we will have the same problem this year. For Wigan this will be an important moment. The FA Cup is the second (most important) trophy in England after the Premier League. I think it's an important trophy for everyone," added Mancini.
He reported a clean bill of health for his side with Yaya Toure, who scored the winner in the 2011 final, declaring himself fit. In the 1963 final Matt Busby's Manchester United caused a minor upset by beating Matt Gillies's Leicester City 3-1. Leicester had finished fourth in the top flight while United were 19th, just three points above the relegation zone. Wigan are hoping to follow in United's footsteps by pulling off the same kind of shock on Saturday.