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