Atletico Madrid may be without a key defensive player as they attempt to hang on to the coat-tails of dominant La Liga leaders Barcelona with an away win over Sporting Gijon.
Diego Simeone’s men appear to have slim chance to catching the defending champions in the race for the title, but travel to Gijon with confidence having come through a testing tie with PSV in the Champions League in midweek.
A penalty shoot-out was required for Atletico to progress to the last eight, with Luciano Narsingh’s miss ensuring an 8-7 win on spot-kicks after both teams had failed to score across two legs.
However, the victory came at a cost for Atletico as centre-back Diego Godin sustained a grade two muscle injury to his right thigh in the contest.
Atletico have yet to say whether Godin will be able to play in Saturday’s clash at El Molinon against a Sporting side mired in the relegation zone.
Sporting are second bottom in the table with 24 points from 29 games and, having not won since claiming back-to-back victories over Real Sociedad and Valencia in January, are three points adrift of safety.
The omens do not bode well for Sporting, who approach the fixture on a run of just one win in their last 19 La Liga games against Atletico.
Despite Sporting’s plight at the wrong end of the table, midfielder Omar Mascarell – on loan from Real Madrid – has called on his team-mates to remain upbeat.
He told the club’s website: “This is no time for pessimism. We still have nine finals. We have deserved more reward than we have obtained.”
Asked if the match was a derby for him because of his ties to Madrid, Mascarell added: “It’s clear that I’m Real Madrid, although my thoughts are now with Sporting.
“We have to be very concentrated, all united we are stronger.”
Sporting’s last triumph over Atletico came in 2011, when David Barral’s second-half strike ensured a 1-0 triumph.
The hosts’ hopes of keeping Atletico at bay this time around appear slim, with Simeone’s men having conceded goals in just three of their last 10 La Liga away trips.
And, with Atletico top scorer Antoine Griezmann – who broke the deadlock in the last minute to settle November’s reverse fixture – having netted in four of the last five matches, the visitors will be expected to pile further misery on relegation-threatened Sporting and extend their league winless run to nine matches.
Key Opta Stats:
– Atletico Madrid side have lost just two of their last 12 league away games (W9 D1) at La Rosaleda and at Camp Nou.
– Sporting Gijon have conceded the most shots on target in La Liga (157), while opponents Atletico have conceded the fewest (68).
– Sporting have the lowest average possession rate in La Liga this season (41.96 per cent).