Atletico Madrid manager Diego Simeone is facing a major injury crisis at the heart of his defence ahead of the Champions League quarter-final matches with Barcelona, after the club confirmed Jose Maria Gimenez has joined Diego Godin and Stefan Savic on the treatment table. The situation leaves academy standout Lucas Hernandez as the club's only available recognised centre-back specialist.

Gimenez, alongside the 20-year-old Lucas, led the backline during the side's 2-1 defeat to Sporting Gijon on 19 March, after club captain Godin limped off days earlier in the penalty shootout victory over PSV Eindhoven.

Atletico released a statement at the time confirming fans' worst fears, admitted Godin had suffered a grade-II muscle injury to his thigh. Reports in Spain suggested he was a severe doubt for the trip to Barcelona after the international break.

However, the situation may be even worse, after the club released a similar statement confirming Godin's injury during the Gijon loss.


"The medical report of the defender points out that he suffered a grade-II muscle injury in his right biceps femoris," the club informed fans. "The Uruguayan felt discomfort during the second half of the match against Sporting. Giménez will start his recovery process to be available for Diego Simeone as soon as possible, undergoing physical therapy sessions and work in the gym."

Atletico refused to set a deadline on recovery, but both AS and Marca estimated that Gimenez would be out for around three weeks, making him a major doubt for the Barcelona match.

As things stand, Savic seems to be the centre-back most likely to partner Lucas in the Champions League game. The former Manchester City defender has been out of service since the last-16 first-leg match with PSV on 24 February.

Should none of the trio be back for the Barca game, Simeone may be forced to fill the gap with either midfielder Saul Niguez or full-back Jesus Gamez, possibly using the game against Real Betis on 2 April to test out new positional plays.

The news is a particular blow for Atletico as their achievements in recent years have been based on a strong defence, conceding just 14 in 30 La Liga encounters so far this season, and just three in eight Champions League encounters.

More about La Liga