DOUGIE Freedman is planning to give some of his out-of-favour stars a chance to shine against Sunderland in the cup.
Martin Petrov, Sam Ricketts, Andy Lonergan, Marvin Sordell and Joe Riley are all poised to come into the reckoning after sitting out against Leeds United on Tuesday, while Benik Afobe and David Ngog are also tipped to feature from the start.
The match will come too soon for returning midfielders Stuart Holden and Josh Vela, however, despite encouraging reports from the training ground at Euxton on their progress.
Tom Eaves, who was recently recalled from a loan spell at Bristol Rovers, is also cup-tied but the club envisage no problem using their other loanees, Jay Spearing (Liverpool) and Afobe (Arsenal) if necessary.
Freedman believes the game could prove a useful indicator for his side, who still harbour ambition of Premier League football despite a worryingly inconsistent first half of the season.
"It gives me a good opportunity to freshen up the squad and give some game time to those pushing for first team action,” the manager said.
“It’s a good distraction pitting us against a Premier League club where I think we should belong.
“It will give us a benchmark as to where we are falling short.”
Freedman has hinted that Wanderers’ transfer activity could kick up a notch after the weekend, when a move for West Brom defender Craig Dawson is expected.
It is not yet known whether Albion are willing to part with the former Rochdale and Radcliffe Borough man on a permanent basis, but a £3million valuation for the England Under-21 man could take up a large portion of the cash Freedman has to spend this month.
Other signings - including the in-doubt loan deal for Aston Villa’s Stephen Warnock - could hinge on the result of talks for the centre-half.
But Zat Knight, whose position could come under threat with Dawson’s arrival, welcomes the idea of extra bodies in the defence following the recent injury to Matt Mills and David Wheater’s continued spell on the sidelines.
“Competition is always good,” he said. “Maybe the manager hasn't had enough players in some positions.
“Sam (Ricketts) isn't a centre-half and he's been playing there. If he had options then it might be more of a test.”
“Maybe sometimes we know we'll be playing next week because there are no other centre-halves.
“And that's not just my position, but maybe others as well.”