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Owen Coyle wants big fish in knock-out stages

Updated: Thursday, 28 Nov 2013 08:27 | Comments

Owen Coyle's Wigan could reach the  last 32 of the Europa League this evening
Owen Coyle's Wigan could reach the last 32 of the Europa League this evening

Owen Coyle is already dreaming of landing one of Europe's big fish as Wigan attempt to clinch qualification for the knockout stages of the Europa League.

The Latics meet Belgians Zulte Waregem on Thursday night knowing victory would be enough to send them through to the last 32 providing Maribor do not beat table-toppers Rubin Kazan in Russia.

Wigan manager Coyle said: "We're the only second-tier team operating in the Europa League and we have a fantastic chance with two games to go to qualify for the knock-out stages, which would be an incredible achievement. We want to do everything in our power to try and achieve that goal.

"We want to stand toe-to-toe with some good players and good teams. We've done that to this point but we want to take that to the next stage.

"The incentive is there not only for ourselves but also Zulte Waregem, because it could be a Milan, an Ajax, a Napoli - there's going to be some fantastic teams coming out of the Champions League never mind the quality that's already in the Europa League.

"For us to be able to reach that 32 would be a great achievement but we're going to have to go and earn it. This is a very good side, very attack-minded, they've got some terrific players."

"For us to be able to reach that 32 would be a great achievement but we're going to have to go and earn it" - Owen Coyle

Rubin's game is an early kick-off so Wigan will know by the start of their match whether they can clinch qualification on Thursday or whether it will go down to their last group game in Maribor next month.

Rubin have been the class act of Group D and look certain to secure top spot, but Wigan have acquitted themselves well in their first European campaign and only suffered their first defeat last time out in a narrow 1-0 loss to the Russians.

Zulte were Wigan's first opponents in Europe when the teams shared a goalless draw in Bruges in September.

Franck Dury's side are second in the Belgian league and their standout player is on-loan striker Thorgan Hazard, who, along with his better-known brother Eden, is on Chelsea's books.

History is on Wigan's side, with no Belgian team having beaten an English club on these shores in 29 attempts, dating back to Antwerp's win over Aston Villa in 1975.

Defender Leon Barnett is keen for Wigan to complete the task, and he said: "As someone who hasn't played in the Europa League before, it's very important for me.

"It's a chance to progress and maybe get a bigger team in the next round. It's something I want to do and I want to do it the right way."

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