The former AC Milan defender is expected to miss 8 weeks.
Six to watch
The Europa League semifinals conclude Thursday with Sporting taking a slim lead to Athletic Bilbao and Atletico Madrid trying to finish off Spanish rivals Valencia at the Mestalla. Here’s six of the biggest names to keep an eye on as Europe’s second-tier tournament heads towards the May 9th final in Bucharest.
Iker Munian, F, Athletic Bilbao
The young Athletic forward looks like a star in the making and after his performance against Manchester United, he’s on many teams’ shopping lists. Sporting did a fine job last time out containing him but there’s a reason he is so coveted: he’s slick, quick and very hard to stifle. He seems to be developing that ability to change games as well, and if that continues to develop, the kid will be a major talent.
Ricky van Wolfswinkel, F, Sporting (Right)
Van Wolfswinkel has scored some big goals this Europa League campaign — it was his header against Metalist which took the Portuguese side into the semifinals at the Ukrainians’ expense, and his goal sunk Manchester City in the knockout round. He needs to have another harrying effort tonight to take pressure off his defenders against an Athletic side that will come in with all guns blazing.
Aritz Aduriz, F, Valencia (Left)
If there’s ever a time for the Valencia forward to come good, it’s now. He has been disappointing this tournament, without a single goal to his name. This is a baffling drop off for the experienced forward who has otherwise shone brightly during his long career. He knows how to play in clutch games and still has the speed and guile, but he has to find the net.
Radamel Falcao, F, Atletico Madrid
Atletico Madrid’s striker is on a remarkable goal-a-game scoring clip in this competition and is closing in on all-time leader Henrik Larsson. He’s closing in on his second straight Europa league final as well — he won with Porto last season — and is looking like the hot hand at the right rime. Only one man has bettered Falcao’s goal-a-game clip: Bayern Munich manager Jupp Heynckes, who scored 23 in 21 games with Moenchengladbach.
Fernando Llorente, F, Athletic Bilbao
Athletic’s rangy striker is emerging as the next big Spanish star and will be key if Bilbao hope to shrug off their first-leg loss to Sporting. Llorente is quick and deadly, with six goals so far in this competition and is widely rumored to be a target for free-spending Chelsea and Manchester City. Athletic have a large stockpile of talent but have faded badly in La Liga, and this game could be his last, best showcase to gain a big money move.
Oguchi Onyewu, D, Sporting
He’s back! The big American defender missed a healthy part of the spring season following knee surgery, but he was the key player this past weekend as Sporting downed Nacional and will slot in immediately at the back. Sporting hold the lead but will have to withstand a furious onslaught from the speedy Spanish side, and Onyewu will be at the center of the action.