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Malaga’s good run so far is in part due to the goal-scoring form of its Argentine forward Javier Saviola, says our Latin football expert Mustapha ‘El Loco’ Kamaruddin

HOLA!

Real Madrid and Barcelona are in the last 16 of the Champions League this season with a game to spare at the group stages but this was expected.

The good or interesting news for Spanish football fans, including those here in Malaysia, is that two other Primera Liga clubs have also made the knockout stages of this elite European competition.

The two are Malaga and Valencia.

Congratulations to these four clubs.

Malaga, who created history by making the group stages for the first time, marched to the last 16 in style as they ended up as Group C winners. The others in this group are AC Milan, Zenit St Petersburg and Anderlecht.

So credit should be given to Malaga and their Chilean manager Manuel Pellgrini. They have been doing well this season - in both Primera Liga and Champions League - despite the odds.

Among the players who have been playing key roles are midfielders Isco, Eliseu and Joaquin. In defence, they have Argentine Martin Demichelis.

And remember Javier Saviola also known as ‘El Conejo’ or ‘The Rabbit’?

The 5ft 7in former Argentina international striker, who played in the 2006 World Cup, has been playing his part well too since joining Malaga last August from Benfica on a one-year contract.

Playing in Primera Liga is nothing new to the 30-year-old as he was with Barcelona from 2001 to 2007 where he scored 49 goals from 123 appearances.

For the record, before coming to Spain, he was with River Plate from 1998 to 2001 where he scored 45 goals from 86 outings.

During his stay at Nou Camp, he was sent on loan twice (Monaco 2004-2005) and Sevilla (2005 - 2006).

In 2007, he left Barca to join bitter rivals Real but only played 17 games with four goals to show.         

Two seasons later, he signed up with Benfica and scored 24 goals from 69 matches. Then it is back to Spain with Malaga after severing his ties with the Lisbon giants.

With massive support from the supporters, he is enjoying himself playing with Malaga and has scored three goals from nine outings in the league thus far.

He also netted once in the Champions League.

Saviola, who played for Argentina from 2000 to 2007 with 40 caps and 11 goals, has all the qualities and experience to help Malaga this season. No doubt about that.

If he is fit, Saviola should be playing his part again when, ironically, Malaga entertain Valencia in a Liga match on Sunday (3am, Malaysian time) at La Rosaleda.

This clash can turn out to be a thriller as both are in the right frame of mind after making the last 16 of the Champions League.

Furthermore, both teams need all the points to strengthen their positions in the standings in view for Champions League places next season.

Malaga are fifth in the standings with 19 points from 12 matches while Valencia are eighth with 18 points.

Malaga cannot afford to lose points here especially at home. The most Valencia can get here is a draw.

Adios!

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