What: Spanish La Liga
Who: Malaga vs Real Madrid
When: Saturday 22nd December, 2012, at 19:00 UK time
Where: La Rosaleda, Malaga, Spain

Good Feeling

Malaga hold a realistic chance of upsetting Real Madrid when the two sides meet at the Rosaleda stadium here. Knowing full well that the reigning champions are in a dire situation after having practically lost all hope of retaining their league crown, Malaga coach Manuel Pellegrini has a chance now to carry on with his side’s good run.

The Andalucian team have been continuing their renaissance of last season, topping their Champions League group ahead of the likes of AC Milan and Zenit St. Petersburg. Just five points shy of direct competitors Real Madrid, a win for the home side will rub salt in Los Blancos’ wounds and allow Malaga to get closer to third place.

Club left-back Nacho Monreal knows that a win against Los Merengues will be possible at home, but still pointed out that Real Madrid are not to be taken lightly.

“The match against Real Madrid will be a game that we are really looking forward to. We're in a pretty good form, we are playing here at home, and we know that Real Madrid are not going through their best moments but they remain a very powerful opponent that will be very complicated.”
With their latest league home setback dating back to 10th November against Real Sociedad, Malaga can fancy their chances. However, the corresponding fixture last season ended in a heavy 4-0 defeat, and Pellegrini will want to avoid a repeat of that.

Lost Crown

Following their 2-2 draw with Espanyol at home, Real Madrid have all but lost their league title. With 13 points now separating them and Barcelona, Jose Mourinho has to turn his efforts towards regaining the Spanish Cup they lost last season and finally winning that elusive tenth Champions League trophy the club have been waiting for. Either way, Real Madrid cannot catch the Catalans at the moment – not even half the season has passed – and will concentrate on being runners-up as just four points separate them from second-placed Atletico Madrid following Los Rojiblancos’ loss to Barcelona last weekend.

The start to the 2012/13 season has been one of Real Madrid’s worst in recent years. While their magnificent away record last term – 16 wins out of 19 games on the road – was the difference maker between them and Barcelona, Mourinho’s side have been poor on their travels, as they have won just half of their away games.

While the league is no longer a priority for Real Madrid now, the team must nonetheless pick themselves up and get back to winning ways. Jose Callejon knows that a tough test awaits them against Malaga, but still expressed confidence in getting the result his side need.

“We have a very important game next week and we all have to give more, be at 100% to get out of this situation and change the dynamic”, declared the midfielder after the Espanyol draw.


Recent form

Malaga 4-0 Granada (08/12; La Liga)
Sevilla 0-2 Malaga (15/12; La Liga)
SD Eibar 1-1 Malaga (18/12; Copa del Rey)

Real Madrid:
Real Valladolid 2-3 Real Madrid (08/12; La Liga)
Celta Vigo 2-1 Real Madrid (12/12; Copa del Rey)
Real Madrid 2-2 Espanyol (16/12; La Liga)

Key absences

Malaga: Jeremy Toulalan; Julio Baptista; Weligton (suspended)

Real Madrid: Raul Albiol; Gonzalo Higuain; Marcelo; Karim Benzema (doubt); Raphael Varane (doubt)

Players to watch

Malaga – Joaquin: The former Real Betis man is still an important member of the squad despite his growing age. Joaquin has showed flashes of his abilities this season, but facing Fabio Coentrao on the right will be a bigger test.

Real Madrid – Mesut Ozil: Los Blancos are having a real problem in midfield as it appears to be out of synch with the forwards. Ozil has displayed brilliance at times this term – such as against Real Valladolid – but his form remains irregular. Ahead of Luka Modric for the time being, he is being given another vote of confidence by Mourinho.

Match Prediction

Karim Benzema might reappear for this one, giving his coach an extra option up front as his team struggled without his presence against Celta Vigo and Espanyol. Malaga however will be confident of themselves, and will not make it easy for the travelling side. Expect the spoils to be shared after a 1-1 draw.

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