Match preview: Sporting vs. Atlético

Red and whites looking to avoid Euro hangover with away trip in Asturias

Griezmann was the late matchwinner earlier in the season

Griezmann was the late matchwinner earlier in the season

After a dramatic win on penalties against PSV Eindhoven on Tuesday night, followed by the news that Barcelona will be Atlético’s next Champions League opponents, it’s easy to forget that there is a game tomorrow.

The red and whites return to La Liga action following their European exploits with a trip to face lowly Sporting Gijón, needing a win to keep up their momentum going into the international break.

Kick-off in El Molinón is set for 16:00 CET.

Atleti were pushed right to the limit by their Dutch opposition at the Calderón on Tuesday night, needing 120 minutes and eight penalties to finally see of PSV and book their place in the Champions League quarter-final.

The win came at a cost though, as leader and half-man, half-wall Diego Godín was forced off with an injury that will rule him out for around three weeks or so.

Whilst many will be praying that he returns for that double header against Barcelona in early April, the main concern for Diego Simeone is always the next game, and that he only has two fit centre-backs for Saturday’s trip to Sporting.

Stefan Savic is still nursing a muscle problem, meaning that Lucas Hernández will start alongside José María Giménez at centre-back for the second away match in a row.

Lucas’ brother, Theo, travels with the squad for Asturias, as does fellow B-team defender Nacho Monsalve to complete a very youthful looking defence for the rojiblancos.

Also out is Yannick Carrasco, who serves a suspension after picking up his fifth yellow card of the season in last week’s win against Deportivo La Coruña, and long-term absentee Tiago.

The Belgian winger has been a revelation in attack for Atleti this season, and will be a big miss particularly on the counter attack against a Sporting side fighting for their lives at the bottom of La Liga.

Although there may be 17 places between the two sides heading into the clash, Simeone inisisted in his press conference today that he expects a tough game.

“Right now the most important game for us is tomorrow afternoon against Sporting,” he said. “They are a dangerous opponent, and although results have not always gone their way this season, they have done great work and are very competitive.”

“The game on Tuesday will take it’s toll on us, but we hope to manage it and play the game we want. The fans in El Molinón are always supportive, and they have a great coach and young players who can cause us problems.”

The Argentine tactician also touched briefly on the Champions League draw, seeming unfazed by the prospect of facing a side that have won their last six matches against Atleti.

“We’ve seen the draw and it’s an important rival. What better incentive for us than to play against the best team in the world? It’s very exciting.” he told press.

Sporting come into the game without a win in eight and on a run of four successive losses, which has seen them drop from 14th to joint-bottom with Levante since the end of January.

Despite their form though, Abelardo’s side have impressed many this season with their youthful exuberance and attractive brand of football, and they will fancy their chances with the news of Godín’s absence.

They held Real Madrid to a 0-0 draw on the opening day of the season and also became to first team to win at Mestalla in over a year a few months ago, so cannot be taken lightly by Cholo’s men.

Midfielder Nacho Cases and defender Bernardo Espinosa will miss out through injury, but the likes of Alen Halilović, Tonny Sanabria and Jorge Meré, all rated as potential future stars, are expected to start.

After the game we face a two week wait before domestic action returns, as players jet off around the globe for their international duties. April starts with a home meeting against Betis, before the first leg in the Camp Nou three days later.

Atlético match selection
Goalkeepers: Moyá, Oblak
Defenders: Filipe, Gámez, Lucas, Juanfran, Giménez, Theo, Nacho
Midfielders: Koke, Kranevitter, Augusto, Gabi, Saúl, Thomas
Forwards: Griezmann, Torres, Correa, Vietto

  • Kris

    I sincerely hope that Oliver leaves during the summer. He’s being treated like absolute shit. Carrasco is out and Oliver still doesn’t get even a fucking call-up. This is such bullshit.

  • nandes

    I thought Óliver’s season would finally get on track after his good showing vs Eibar… seems like nothing’s changed. Still hope we only loan him instead of selling him – that would be a total waste of a promising player.

    Sometimes I think people forget he’s only 21. The pressure on him is way too heavy for his age

  • Hannu

    This Oliver case is really strange. Maybe there is something with training or something …Strange.

  • Ahmad Hossainy

    I don’t think Oliver has a pressure problem, I think he has a Simeone problem .
    Oliver is 11 days older than Saul, but the latter doesn’t have any pressure on him because he has Simeone’s blind trust, and the only difference I can think of between these two is that Saul is taller and can score many goals from headers !

    What is driving me crazy though is that Correa has scored many goals too, he is the team’s 3rd top scorer, he scored more than Carrasco, Torres & Vietto, but still he only got 1071 minutes in all competitions, out of 3900 .
    He played lass than Oliver himself ! . He played less than Gamez . He played less than Munir, less than Halilović, and much less than Iñaki Williams, he played less than any other talented and promising player in La Liga and maybe in the world .

    Fuck pressure, fuck young age, fuck adaptation, they are all bullshit, the real problem is Simeone, and I don’t want to hear the argument that he gets the results, because passing Bayer & PSV only by penalties with all the players he has are really not great results, and there are too many coaches who can beat those two teams home and away with this great group of players Simeone has .

    Damn, I said I won’t criticize Simeone for the rest of this season, but I’m sorry, I couldn’t resist !

  • Karlp

    If Oliver goes, I hope he goes to Dortmund with buy-back clause. I believe he can thrive there with Gundogan is possibly leaving and Castro-Kagawa haven’t really shone this season. And I think Dortmund way of playing is currently the best for attacking midfielder bar Barca Real Bayern.

    As of Correa, I still think there is still chances for him. Although, what will be difficult for him next season is if Borja is back and Atleti buy another striker such as Costa.

  • Karlp

    Yes, the type of player that can survive with the current Atleti system are the one that are very direct and can defend well like Saul, and unlike Oliver. I think unless Atleti’s burden of winning UCL is fulfilled, there won’t be much transition to more attacking system. Because this transition basically can give 1-2 bad/average season.

  • atleti10

    Quite frankly I think a lot of fans have forgotten what Simeone has done. He has solidified and cemented Atletico as one of Europe’s top sides. He has built the strongest defense I’ve seen and this has been the catalyst for the clubs success.

    If Simeone decides to play Oliver, Saul, Giminez, Correa week in week out we will concede goals. He is bringing then through slowly but surely which is the correct thing to do. Oliver will get his chance but quite clearly he’s not showing enough at the moment. He’s come on in a few games and showed his quality but that is a completely different prospect to show concentration and control over 90 minutes.

    Simeone has built this team and he knows what wins titles and what doesn’t. Clearly playing too many of the ‘kids’ doesn’t.

    Oliver might be the future Xavi but right now hes no rightfully fighting for a place with Thomas ano Kranevitter.

  • Ahmad Hossainy

    Then why not let Oliver leave ?! He wanted to go in the winter but Simeone refused .

    And who said Oliver can’t defend, yes he can, and yes he is, and don’t tell me that he is small, he is the same size as Grizi and Correa who both are also defending the way Simeone likes .

    Oliver has been defending very well since the 2nd game of the season against Sevilla, he made many tackles and stole many balls from the “giants” of Sevilla .
    So no, I don’t think his problem is poor defending either .

  • Karlp

    Yes, I think Oliver should leave to Dortmund in this summer.
    Yes, I think Oliver can defend. However, in general perception he is perceived as a less defensive player.

    There is an article in AS that said Simeone was angry at him in a match because he tries to turn and retain the ball when opposing player comes, instead of directly passing the ball.
    It is a very simple matter yet worrying because that’s the way he is, and it is some of the quality you don’t want to change from him.
    Based on this, I don’t think he will develop in the current Atleti system.