Málaga are one of the newer clubs fallen victim (in my opinion) to the billionaire sugar-daddy syndrome, and one of only a few in Spain. But, looking at the table right now, you wouldn’t really believe it. While PSG and Manchester City are leading their respective leagues, Málaga are in 8th place (level with Sevilla and Espanyol) with 25 points after managing just 7 wins, 4 draws, and 7 defeats. Pellegrini’s men are smack in the middle of an awful run in which they last tasted victory 7 games ago on December 13 versus Getafe in the Copa. Since then they have lost to Valencia, Real Madrid (Copa-twice), and most recently Sporting Gjion. One has to go even farther back for their last league victory, which was 9 games ago. I admit to not having watched a great deal of them this year, probably around 3 matches, but one I did make time for was when they hosted Real Madrid back in October and I have rarely been so utterly unimpressed by a performance. It was truly abysmal and I expect better from Manuel Pellegrini.
Kameni has been signed this week from Espanyol, after the Cameroonian had a major falling out with his former employers. Between the sticks was an area of weakness for Pellegrini. Kameni’s big stature, reflexes, and natural shot stopping should prove to strengthen the team, but I’ve always found his decision making poor leading to a fair share of blunders. Baptista is injured which leaves the goal scoring duties firmly on the shoulders of Ruud Van Nistelrooy, and lately scoring has been a problem for this team with just 7 in their last 8. Cazorla is their star creative option, with Toulalan not impressing at all since joining, but keep an eye on Isco, a 19 year old pinched from the Mestalla youth ranks. The defensive partnering of Mathijsen and Dimechelis is far from impressive and Barça could really find a lot of joy in this area. Still, as pathetic as they were against Madrid, it seems team enjoy challenging us more, so tomorrow won’t be a time to relax.
The match immediately following his 10 Clásicos, Pep has led the team to 8 wins, 1 draw, and 1 defeat. There is zero doubt the team will have gained a great deal of confidence and momentum from Wednesday’s historic victory, but without a victory tonight, those feelings will vaporize. In this Week 1 clash (postponed due to the strike), once again there is no room for defeat, and both Pep and players were quick to recognize this in the post- Clásicos basking. No injuries besides the long-termers, and my guess for the lineup is one very similar to Real Madrid with only Mascherano coming in for Puyol. Having set a La Liga record of 14 away victories last season, it’s been surprising and disappointing to have only collected 3 wins from 8 this year. This is where we’ve let Madrid surge ahead, with 12 points less earned on our travels.
It’s another tough week on the pitch for the blaugrana, with this game promptly followed by another emotionally draining battle with Mourinho Wednesday, and then another trip to Villarreal next Sunday. Pep and the boys have been in plenty of these sorts of runs before, and rarely let us down. Over recent years, there have been some nasty encounters against Málaga, including a Messi stomp, so hopefully a man of Pellegrini’s character won’t allow that a la Mourinho gameplan. A focused game tomorrow, at 80% of the level we play versus Madrid, should be too much for a stuttering Málaga. It’s all about execution now.