Gabi expects backlash from anguished Sporting Lisbon squad

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Atletico Madrid captain Gabi believes Sporting Lisbon will be fired up by the civil war engulfing the Portuguese club.

Atleti are in Lisbon for their Europa League quarter-final, defending a 2-0 lead from the first leg.

They take on a side whose players are at loggerheads with club president Bruno de Carvalho after he heavily criticised them for their performance in last week’s fixture.

The disgruntled players were unhappy and put out a joint statement on their Twitter feeds, which saw Carvalho retaliate by threatening to suspend 19 of them.

That drama seemed to pass as Jorge Jesus’ men won in the Primeira Liga at the weekend, only for Carvalho to lash out once more, saying on Facebook: “In this club there are moles, and it is down to certain players who have been trying to get out of the club for years.

“That is why there will be disciplinary proceedings against these players, players who have tried to denigrate the name of the president and the club.”

It leaves Sporting with a massive uphill battle, especially with Fabio Coentrao and Bas Dost suspended, but Gabi is wary of the wounded animal.

He said in quotes published by Marca: “Sporting are a very important team, they played without nerves and they seemed like a great team, they had chances to score some goals and I am convinced that tomorrow’s game will be very difficult.

“I do not think we have things easier because two players are missing, I think that with the latest events they will be highly motivated and that will cover any absences.”

Atletico take to the field for the first time since striker Fernando Torres said he would be leaving the club in the summer.

And Gabi wants his side to help Torres bow out after tasting European glory.

He added: “We have been talking about Fernando for a long time, we all know the importance he has held.

“It is rash to pay tributes ahead of time and I am convinced that his best moment at Atletico is about to come.

“Until that day we will fight together to give him the homage he deserves.

“It would be important for everyone that Fernando wins, but because we are with him, he is the most successful player at this club, but that title would be the icing on the cake.

“We will fight together to give him the homage he deserves.”

Diego Simeone will be able to pick Jose Maria Gimenez after the Uruguayan overcame an ankle injury.

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