Madrid (AFP) – Fernando Torres is expected to return just two weeks after losing consciousness in a sickening head clash as Atletico Madrid look to seal their place in the Champions League quarter-finals on Wednesday.
Atletico are strong favourites to reach the last eight for a fourth straight year as Torres was on target in a 4-2 first leg win against Beyer Leverkusen in Germany three weeks ago to give the Spanish side a commanding lead.
Torres returned to full training for the first time on Monday since losing consciousness in a challenge with Deportivo la Coruna’s Alex Bergantinos that provoked consternation among those on the field and watching around the world.
However, thankfully the 32-year-old was released from hospital less than 24 hours later having suffered no serious injuries.
“We imagine that for Wednesday he will be available,” said Atletico boss Diego Simeone.
Whether Torres starts depends on Kevin Gameiro’s fitness as the French international missed Saturday’s 1-0 win at Granada with an abdominal injury.
Atletico will definitely be without captain Gabi and left-back Filipe Luis as they picked up yellow cards towards the end of the first leg to ensure they will be free to play in the quarter-finals.
However, despite that apparent show of Atletico’s confidence that they already have one foot in the quarters, midfielder Koke warned against complacency.
“We have a great result from the first leg, but we can’t be complacent. We need to give our all again on Wednesday,” said the Spanish international.
Leverkusen travel to Spain under new management as Tayfun Korkut replaced the sacked Roger Schmidt after the Germans first leg defeat was followed up by a 6-2 thrashing at Borussia Dortmund.
Atletico have only lost one of 20 Champions League games at home under Simeone.
However, Leverkusen are hoping for a comeback of Barcelona proportions after the Spanish champions fought back from a 4-0 first leg defeat to beat Paris Saint-Germain 6-1 last week.
“We know it’s going to be difficult and it’s hardly possible, but we will give it our all and try to make the impossible possible,” said centre-back Omer Toprak.
Leverkusen, though, will be depleted by injury and suspension themselves.
Benjamin Henrichs and influential midfielder Hakan Calhanoglu are banned, whilst Toprak, Jonathan Tah, Stefan Kiessling and captain Lars Bender are out injured.
“Everything is possible in football and we know we can do better,” said striker Kevin Volland after Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Werder Bremen left Leverkusen languishing in the bottom half of the Bundesliga table.