Live on Sky Sports 4. Kick off: Saturday 7pm
Mixed emotions in Malaga this week as on the same day they were drawn against Porto in the last sixteen of this season’s Champions League they were given news that they will be banned from European competition the next time they qualify.
Malaga intends to appeal the decision which is a result of the club’s unsettled debts. UEFA also stated that the ban will be extended for a further season unless Malaga can prove by the end of March that they have settled outstanding payments to other teams, staff and tax authorities. They also been fined 300,000 euros (245,685 pounds).
Motivation then may be hard for the players as they currently sit in the fourth Champions League spot. The club must try to put the news to one side and concentrate on Saturday’s visit of Real Madrid.
Madrid will also be somewhat preoccupied with the news that they will face Manchester United in the next round of the Champions League. Cristiano Ronaldo in particular will perhaps be distracted by the thought of returning to Old Trafford but Malaga’s news is definitely the more troubling.
Madrid go into the game as clear favourites (8/13 Bet365) despite their series of abject performances outside the capital. Poor away form manifested itself into a poor performance at the Bernabeu last week as they could only manage a 2-2 draw with Espanyol. Jose Mourinho needs a better showing from his players this weekend in the final game before the league splits up for Christmas.
The champions have only won two of their last five away games and on both occasions can count themselves fortunate to do so as they relied on a late goal from young striker Alvaro Morata to beat Levante before having to twice come from behind to see off Valladolid. Madrid have, however, won on eight of their last nine trips Estadio La Rosaleda. They are also unbeaten in twenty-four against Malaga, a run which dates all the way back to 1999.
This Malaga side are far more talented than in previous years though, and they come into the game having won their last two league games at home 4-0 – against Valencia and Granada – but before that lost to Vallecano and Sociedad on the South coast. Defender Weligton is suspended so will miss the match whilst Jeremy Toulalan remains injured. Madrid have no fresh injury concerns and have to be confident of maintaining their unbeaten streak against the hosts.
Madrid’s problems away from home this season cannot be ignored so we expect a close first half and can easily see the sides going in level . 0-0 at half-time is priced at a fairly large 3/1 (William Hill). We do expect Mourinho’s side to get the win in the end though as they look to take advantage of what must be a downcast Malaga dressing room. The draw at half-time with Madrid winning the match pays at 19/5 (William Hill).