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Leg 1
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Diego Simeone: Atletico Madrid must beware of improved Sporting Gijon

Diego Simeone has said Atleti will face a motivated Gijon side.

Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone has warned his players that Saturday's opponents Sporting Gijon have been boosted by their recent upturn in form.

Sporting have struggled for much of the season but their performances have picked up under new coach Rubi, with last weekend's 2-0 victory at fellow strugglers Leganes a first win since December.

And Simeone told his prematch news conference he was wary of the challenge his team would face in Gijon.

"We know that they will be motivated after winning their last game at Leganes," he said.

"Winning that game will have boosted Sporting, and that can be an even more important force than talent sometimes."

Atletico goalkeeper Jan Oblak and midfielder Tiago Mendes, who have not played since dislocating a shoulder and suffering a knee injury, are close to comebacks.

"They are fine, better," Simeone said. "Tiago more comfortably, Jan the same. We hope to have them back with us as soon as possible."

Atletico have continued to call on defender Lucas Hernandez despite the France underage international being charged in a domestic abuse case.

The 21-year-old is due to appear in court on Tuesday, but Simeone suggested he could be available for that evening's Champions League match at Bayer Leverkusen.

"[Lucas] can play tomorrow, and on Tuesday, if his coach thinks it appropriate that he plays," said Simeone.

He also welcomed news that Ghana international midfielder Thomas Partey, 23, has signed a new contract that runs until 2022.

"We are happy to be able to count on another player -- the competition for places is important," he said. "We love him and that is why he has renewed."

Dermot Corrigan is a Madrid-based football writer who covers La Liga and the Spain national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @dermotmcorrigan

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