Sporting v Atletico Madrid: Atleti to face sternest test so far

Atletico Madrid boss Diego Simeone
Atleti boss Diego Simeone has worked wonders
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Atletico are in pole position, but Kevin Hatchard thinks Sporting will fully test them in Lisbon...

"Sporting's home record deserves respect, and I think we'll see the return of the defensive, well-drilled Atletico we have seen so often. They may be happy to accept a stalemate."

Lay Atletico Madrid at [1.93]

Sporting v Atletico Madrid
Thursday April 12, 20:05
Live on BT Sport

Sporting must find a way to block out the noise

It's fair to say it's been an eventful few days since the first leg. Sporting played fairly well in their 2-0 defeat at Atletico, although they made errors for both goals and missed some good chances. SCP president Bruno de Carvalho was less than impressed, and launched at outrageous tirade on social media. He lambasted defenders Sebastian Coates and Jeremy Mathieu for their errors, and bemoaned the lack of clinical finishin in attack. Worst of all, he suggested striker Bas Dost and defender Fabio Coentrao has deliberately got themselves booked to skip the second leg.

After the players responded angrily, de Carvalho threatened to suspend 19 of them, only for coach Jorge Jesus to calm the situation. At the weekend, Sporting beat Pacos de Ferreira to keep their Primeira Liga title hopes alive.

To add to the costly loss of Dost and Coentrao to suspension, key midfielder William Carvalho is less than fully fit. At least Sporting can take heart from their home form - they have won 15 of their last 16 games at the Jose Alvalade.

Simeone proud of Atleti efforts

After the 1-1 derby draw at Real Madrid that saw Atletico lose further ground to Barcelona in the La Liga title race, Atleti coach Diego Simeone was at pains to stress that the club's fans should be proud of the team's efforts in the last few seasons. He has a point - Atleti have reached two Champions League finals under Simeone, won a Europa League, a La Liga title and a Copa del Rey. This is truly a golden era for Los Colchoneros.

Last week's 2-0 win over Sporting was far from perfect, but it does mean that Atleti have now won every Europa League game they have played since dropping down from the Champions League, and on the road they have won 4-1 at Copenhagen and 5-1 at Russian league leaders Lokomotiv Moscow.

There won't be too many surprises in terms of team selection. Left-back Felipe Luis is injured, but it's largely a clean bill of health. The outstanding Antoine Griezmann scored in the derby at the weekend, and has scored 16 goals in his last 15 games.

Atleti perhaps too short at odds-on

As good as Atletico have been in this competition, they didn't have things all their own way last week, and Sporting's home record is superb. I'm not sure Atleti will be quite as free-flowing as they were in Copenhagen, and we may see a return to the ultra-competitive well-drilled side we have seen so often under Simeone in the Champions League.

At [1.93] I'll lay the visitors, as I think they may settle for a stalemate if they can weather the Sporting storm.

Kevin Hatchard 2017-18 Europa League P/L

+0.67 points

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