Defensive frailty cost Sporting Lisbon dearly in the first leg in Madrid, and they have a massive task ahead of them in the second to overturn favorite Atletico's advantage in this quarterfinal match up.
Red Bull Arena Salzburg, Wals-Siezenheim, Austria 12 Apr 2018 7:05 pm (GMT)
Key Stat: Atletico Madrid have won all five Europa League matches that they have played so far this season.
Expert Verdict: While Atletico Madrid are no doubt one of the best teams in all of Europe, even with their elimination from the Champions League back in the fall, they were not forced to do too much to beat Sporting last week. The Portuguese side have gone through some controversy, with their owner suspending players for not playing hard enough and refusing to train. It's not been the best of times for them ahead of this second leg, and with all of the distractions, Atletico are the only side with a chance to move on.
Jorge Jesus has a few issues to account for when considering his team selection for this home second leg. Both left back Fabio Coentrao, who also is injured, and striker Bas Dost are suspended for yellow card accumulation. In addition to those men, defensive midfielder William Carvalho, left midfielder Bruno Cesar, winger Daniel Podence, and forward Rafael Leao are out with injuries.
Despite having not had much of any of the play, Sporting actually had a great chance to score late on in the first leg via Fredy Montero. The Colombian had the ball fall to his feet, but he lifted it over the top with the goal gaping at his mercy. That goal could have changed the tie right then and there, but instead they are two back. With Dost out, he is likely to get the nod up front. He did well against Viktoria Plzen, but it's a real step up against Atletico.
Sporting have two wins and three losses in their last five matches:
2-0 home win vs Pacos de Ferreira
2-0 loss at Atletico Madrid (UEL)
1-0 loss at Braga
2-0 home win vs Rio Ave
2-1 loss vs Viktoria Plzen (UEL)
Defenders:Piccini, Coates, Mathieu, Acuna
Defensive Midfielders:Battaglia, Wendel
Attacking Midfielders:Martins, Fernandes, Ruiz
Diego Simeone has a couple of defensive injuries, with both left back Filipe Luis and center back Jose Gimenez set to miss out on playing a part in this second leg. They did play on Sunday against Real, and a while a little bit of rotation might occur, we don't expect a ton to take place due to the fact that they want to win this tournament.
The first leg wasn't the prettiest of ties, but Atletico took advantage of a couple of mistakes by Sporting. They usually do that sort of thing, and the chief man that typically takes that advantage is Antoine Griezmann. The Frenchman scored the second goal five minutes from half time, and he also comes off a goal on Sunday against Real Madrid that ensured they ended up getting a point against their hated rivals. It was a tremendous 1-2, and he'll be looking to follow that performance up.
Atletico have a draw, three wins, and a loss in their last five matches:
1-1 draw at Real Madrid
2-0 home win vs Sporting Lisbon (UEL)
1-0 home win vs Deportivo La Coruna
2-1 loss at Villarreal
1-5 win at Lokomotiv Moscow (UEL)
Defenders:Vrsaljko, Savic, Godin, Hernandez
Midfielders:Correa, Saul, Gabi, Koke
Atletico and Sporting have played three times now, all of which have taken place in the Europa League. Atletico Madrid got a 2-0 win thanks to goals from Koke and Antoine Griezmann in the first half in the first leg, and the other two matches, both in 2010, ended in draws.
Bet365 have the following odds available for this match:
Sporting Lisbon are at 4/1 to win, a draw is at 23/10, and an Atletico Madrid win is at 4/5.
Sporting Lisbon come into this match in a bit of a wounded state. There are issues amongst the management and the players by the looks of things, but they are in third in Portugal. They would not be able to make it to the Champions League with that result, so they would need to make a great run and get some help to haul back a place via the league. So turning around this two goal deficit might be their only chance. Atletico will be in the Champions League next season. They are likely to finish second or third in La Liga, but even if they did slide down to fourth, they have a huge gap and will get to the elite competition. This is all about laying down a marker for them, and if they did make it to the final it would be their third European final in five years.
The one saving grace for Sporting ahead of this match could be their home form this season. The Portuguese side have only lost once, to Barcelona, while also drawing seven times and winning 18 times in 26 outings at home. That loss was way back in September, and they have won all four of the last home games without conceding. That is something they will need to do in this particular match, you'd have to think, in order to have a chance to move on.
As for Atletico, they are not poor by any means when playing away from home. They have 12 wins, eight draws, and four losses in 24 total matches. They have lost two of the last four, but those came against Barcelona and Villarreal respectively, and neither of those were by an amount that would see them lose here on aggregate. On Sunday, they went to the Bernabeu and did not blink after going a goal down to get a draw against Real Madrid. That is the task ahead of Sporting.
No for both teams to score is at 4/6 at Ladbrokes.
Three things are going to work in the favor of Atleti. For starters, there are questions about Sporting's mindset. Then, you also have the fact that they are very error prone in the back. Thirdly, Atletico's attack is frightening on the counter. All of those add up to a win for the Spaniards.