What: Spanish La Liga
Who: Malaga CF vs Levante UD
When: Saturday 10th March, 2012, at 17:00 UK time
Where: La Rosaleda, Malaga, Spain

Fourth Place

Vying for a fourth-place finish remains Malaga’s uttermost goal at the moment. Just a single point off the mark of occupants Levante, the Andalucians have the chance to topple their guests when the two meet here at the Rosaleda stadium. And the millions pumped in by Sheikh Abdullah Al Thani to assemble a team of quality looks to be paying off, with much improved form for the hosts.

However, even if Los Boquerones have an expensive squad with names such as Ruud van Nistelrooy and Santiago Cazorla, that could still prove not to be enough, according to striker Salomon Rondon, who urged his side to up their game should they want to make fourth place a reality.

“The game will be a turning point if we want to go into the Champions League. We know that our goal is Europe, and have been winning away from home and now we have to think about Levante. We are a point behind them and three important points will be on the line”, said the Venezuelan.

One bad piece of news for the hosts is that Brazilian striker Julio Baptista’s season is effectively over after the former Sevilla man suffered a grave injury last week – but that does not mean Malaga do not have the resources to win this one and keep their Champions League dream alive.

Clashing Interests

Alongside Athletic Bilbao and Malaga, Levante are the third club considered to be a candidate to win the final Champions League qualification berth for next season’s edition. The little Valencian outfit travel south with the hope of coming back with a valuable win over Manuel Pellegrini’s side and increasing the gap between the two clubs to four points. Given the way Levante have been playing their football this season, the unlikely challengers have a real chance of accomplishing their mission.

Given the fact that the first three positions in the standings have largely been determined so far, war now rages over the identity of the fourth-placed finishers. Midfielder Juanlu – who will be missing this next match through injury – believes that the fact that Levante’s chances are often written off makes it easier for his side to compete.

“The best thing is that nobody is betting on Levante”, said the 31-year-old. “It is curious that the other day on TV they had placed Espanyol ahead of us before we even played. That takes pressure off us, gives us important added motivation. The team are still very much alive."

A lot of points are still left to be played for in La Liga. However, a win in such a direct battle could prove to be instrumental for Levante and their hopes of making the Champions League. Malaga remain far from being the finished article, and the little side will be quietly optimistic.

Recent form

Athletic Bilbao 3-0 Malaga (19/02; La Liga)
Malaga 5-1 Real Zaragoza (25/02; La Liga)
Getafe 1-3 Malaga (03/03; La Liga)

Levante 3-5 Rayo Vallecano (19/02; La Liga)
Espanyol 1-2 Levante (25/02; La Liga)
Levante 3-1 Real Betis (05/03; La Liga)

Key absences

Malaga: Sergio Sanchez; Julio Baptista

Levante: Juanlu; Xavi Torres; Juanfran (suspended); Vicente Iborra (suspended)

Players to watch

Malaga – Santiago Cazorla: The winger still has not won hearts in the same manner in which he did at Villarreal, but remains nonetheless one of Malaga’s best players. Cazorla’s threat on either flank cannot be underestimated, and his delivery of set-pieces will surely keep the Levante goalkeeper busy.

Levante – Sergio Ballesteros: The veteran captain will have a hard night fighting off the Malaga attack. One of the best players in the league season so far, the 36-year-old can be his team’s shining light should he roll back the years once again and marshal Levante’s backline.

Match Prediction

This match should be very lively as both teams are in direct competition with one another for that vital fourth spot. Levante have been this campaign’s revelation so far, but have since slipped down after occupying third place for a period. Strangely enough, Malaga’s goalscoring record is a goal shy of that of Levante, despite the former team holding a more impressive arsenal. Expect Levante to win by the odd goal.

This Malaga v Levante clash in La Liga will be vital. Can you tip a winner? Make sure you visit OLBG for tips and to compare the current odds and betting markets available at all the important bookmakers.