Malaga vs Real Madrid: Match preview
Stadium: Estadio da Rosaleda
Referee: Alejandro Hernandez
Kick-off: 12:30 AM (IST), Sunday, 23rd of December
Malaga: L D W W D
In spite of all the financial concerns at the start of the season, Malaga have been surprisingly resilient this season, grinding out results to take them to a top-four position in the table. Their defence has been the real highlight, conceding just 10 goals in 16 games, while the likes of Barcelona have conceded 18. Manuel Pellegrini will hope that his charges continue to stand the test, especially when Ronaldo and co. come knocking, as the capital club have scored just under 2.5 goals per game, with 39 in 16. Up front as well, Malaga haven’t been slouches, and have 25 goals of their own, thanks largely to Saviola and Joaquin. With their first away win since September in last week’s Andalusian derby against Sevilla, Malaga will be hoping to carry that confidence home, and move within 2 points of Real with a win; something they haven’t achieved in the last five encounters between these two.
Real Madrid: W W W L D
Last weekend, Real’s slim hopes of catching up with Barca in the title race virtually evaporated as a 2 – 2 draw against Espanyol put them 13 points adrift, and it would appear that only an absolute miracle can gain them a foothold. The woes have been in the defensive department for Madrid, even though their attack has come to the rescue on quite a few occasions. Quite like their counterparts in England, the Spanish champions haven’t kept a clean sheet in their last four matches, and have conceded 2 in each of their last three games. With a tough-to-break-down Malaga on their hands, conceding one too many might just prove fatal for Real Madrid, and put their automatic Champions League qualification spot at risk of being usurped.
Malaga: Julio Baptista, Jeremy Toulalan.
Real Madrid: Gonzalo Higuain, Marcelo, Raul Albiol, Karim Benzema.
Joaquin vs Pepe
Joaquin has been an important player for Malaga this season, both domestically as well as in Europe. With 4 league goals to his name, he is their second highest scorer, and has created a further two goals for his team. A goal and an assist respectively in his last two games have seen his consistency come to the fore, and Malaga will need him to be at his best. Pepe, on the other hand, has waned in influence this season, over the last, and has struggled to pick up surging runs from the opposing midfield. Pellegrini will be hoping that his main man, Joaquin, can make the most of that.
Mesut Ozil vs Weligton
With 3 goals in his last three games, Ozil has well and truly come into form after a slightly indifferent start to the season. Where Ronaldo’s brute power has failed, Ozil has sometimes displayed extraordinary skill to create openings that have led to crucial goals for his team. With a deadly left foot capable of scoring from free kicks as well, Ozil might just beat Caballero from a set piece. In free play, however, Weligton will keep a watchful eye over every move that Ozil makes, and it will require yet another moment of brilliance from the German star if Madrid are to record victory.
Resilience from Malaga. No matter what the end result, Malaga have shown great determination thus far in the season, and with the ruling from UEFA, they will only be looking to put on a greater display of solidarity, both off the pitch, and on it. Madrid, on the other hand, have been falling apart with both Mourinho and Ronaldo, the two most influential men at the club, rumored to be wanting an exit. Thus, any result from this fixture would be unsurprising.