What: Spanish La Liga
Who: Real Madrid vs Malaga CF
When: Sunday 18th March, 2012, at 20:30 UK time
Where: Santiago Bernabeu, Madrid, Spain

Consolidate the Lead

With CSKA Moscow out of the way, Real Madrid turn their attention now to domestic matters, as the season enters a critical point. With Los Blancos’ European plans put on the top shelf for the moment, the side have the chance to increase the gap with second-placed Barcelona here, as their eternal rivals travel to Andalucia to meet Sevilla, a game that the Catalans could slip up in. Practically imperious at home this season, Los Merengues have a good chance of holding up their end of the bargain.

Standing in Real Madrid’s way though are Malaga, a team that, under Manuel Pellegrini, certainly have the firepower to punish Jose Mourinho’s men on a bad day. Those days do not arrive very often at the Bernabeu however, with November’s Clasico the only home La Liga defeat of the season that the side have tasted.

Los Blancos as a whole have been working as a solid unit this campaign, improving with each passing game. However, the true test remains: can the team topple Barcelona the next time the two meet?

We Can Do Damage

For Malaga, the objective remains achieving La Liga’s fourth position. Entering the weekend, the Andalucians are in a good position, two points in front of Valencian side Levante, who they managed to defeat a week ago. Now, a satisfying result away from home would pump Pellegrini’s team full of confidence as the season enters its last two months.

Malaga have been weak on the road so far, winning just three out of their 13 La Liga games this season, while they also suffered a humiliating 4-0 defeat against their weekend foes in the corresponding fixture last October.

However, Spain star Santiago Cazorla is confident that his side can surprise the league leaders.

“Madrid are a tough opponent and very strong but we must face them head on. We can do them damage. We must be aware that we can win. And we will go out to try and win, as we do in every game. We need audacity and to know that in a one-off game, anything is possible”, said the former Villarreal winger.

Recent form

Real Madrid:
Real Madrid 5-0 Espanyol (04/03; La Liga)
Real Betis 2-3 Real Madrid (10/03; La Liga)
Real Madrid 4-1 CSKA Moscow (14/03; Champions League)

Malaga 5-1 Real Zaragoza (25/02; La Liga)
Getafe 1-3 Malaga (03/03; La Liga)
Malaga 1-0 Levante (10/03; La Liga)

Key absences

Real Madrid: Fabio Coentrao; Angel di Maria

Malaga: Jeremy Toulalan; Julio Baptista

Players to watch

Real Madrid – Kaka: The playmaker might not ever reach his AC Milan form, but he has established himself as a key player in Jose Mourinho’s side in the midst of Angel di Maria’s prolonged absence. Kaka’s road to recovery continues here.

Malaga – Ruud van Nistelrooy: The former Holland striker returns to his maiden Spanish club, where he won two league titles. No longer the man he once was, Van Nistelrooy can nonetheless hurt the Real Madrid defence and leave them in a tough spot.

Match Prediction

Real Madrid’s form, especially at the Bernabeu, makes them hot favourites for this game. Malaga can be tough, especially from set pieces, as shown in the Copa del Rey earlier this season, but Los Blancos should be comfortable here. Real Madrid 3-0 Malaga.

Real Madrid v Malaga is sure to be entertaining. Will Real Madrid justify their tag of favourites? Make sure you visit OLBG for tips and to compare the current odds and betting markets available at all the important bookmakers.