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SURinEnglish takes a look at Malaga CF’s rival ahead of Tuesday’s historic Champions League match against Portuguese side FC Porto
19.02.13 - 10:07 -
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Malaga prepare to meet Porto in Champions as ‘underdogs’
Iturra, Weligton and Baptista lead the group in training last week. Salvador Salas
Malaga face arguably their toughest challenge of their Champions League journey yet on Tuesday (19th February), when they meet Portuguese heavyweights FC Porto at the Estadio do Dragao for their first leg match of the last 16.
The Blue and Whites will travel to Portugal’s second city for the game against the current champions of the country’s ‘Primeira Liga’ the underdogs, according to most bookmakers, who put Porto at slight odds on favourites to qualify for the competition’s quarter finals. This, even though Malaga having been one of the Champions surprises this year, pipping Serie A superstars AC Milan to the top spot in Group C.
However, Manuel Pellegrini’s side will be determined for victory in the historic match and, despite the bookies’ odds, there are some positive facts in Malaga’s favour.
The Andalusians will meet the ‘Portuenses’ for the first time ever in a competitive environment as one of four undefeated sides in the Champions League this season, alongside Borussia Dotrmund, Juventus and Schalke.
In addition, Malaga have only lost one out of their last 24 European games, including qualifiers, although as fate would have it, that defeat took place in Porto when they played Boavista in 2003 in the quarter finals of the UEFA Cup.
It might also be worth bearing in mind that the Blue and White’s last three Champions League games all ended in a draw and they are the only ones in the tournament not to concede a goal in the first half this season.
FC Porto
So, on what basis is the Portuguese side the favourite? Bookies might argue that Porto have in their history only ever lost one, out of 11, of their Champions games in their home ground in the knock out stages – that was in 2009 against Manchester United.
Additionally, having secured three wins and four draws, Porto remain undefeated by a Spanish team in their last seven games in the competition. Real Madrid was the last Spanish outfit to beat them back in 2003.
And this season, only French giants Paris Saint-Germain have conceded fewer goals in the Champions League’s group stages.
Ones to watch
Amongst those on the pitch to look out for is, according to pundits, Porto and the Portuguese national team’s central midfielder, Joao Moutinho, who has notched up 310 passes in the group stages of the Champions League.
Malaga’s Portuguese-born international Eliseu, who has scored three goals in Champions away matches this season and who has played with many of the opponent’s key assets, is a severe doubt with the injury which has seen compatriot Vitorino Antunes step into the side.
Malaga’s rivals will also be wary of goalkeeper Willy Caballero who secured the highest saves-to-shots ratio in the group stages of the tournament this year.
Speaking to Fifa this week, 31 year-old Malaga striker and former Barcelona man, Javier Saviola, told of the dangers of Porto.
“They will be very difficult opponents. I was fortunate enough to play in Portugal for three years and I really know what they’re about and how competitive they are,” he said.
“It’ll be a very tricky meeting and we’ll have to be very focused right from the first whistle, and not make any mistakes.
“Let’s hope we can put in great performances like we did against Milan and Zenit and play the same way.”
The schedule
This all-important first leg match, taking place at Porto’s home ground, kicks off at 8.45pm CET on Tuesday 19th February, with the return match to be held at La Rosaleda on Wednesday 13th March.
Despite many Malaga fans saying they have been left “disappointed” after they have been unable to purchase tickets to see their team take on Porto next week, due to the visiting club only receiving 2,400 tickets from UEFA, there is expected to be a large ‘Malaguista’ presence at the Dragao stadium on Tuesday evening.
Iturra, Weligton and Baptista lead the group in training last week. Salvador Salas