Malaga - Zenit Preview: Spanish club prepare for group stage debut
The Boquerones return to continental competition for the first time since 2003 against the reigning Russian champions, who will hope to improve on last year's last-16 exit
By Daniel Edwards
Sanchez, Demichelis, Weligton, Monreal
Joaquin, Isco, Portillo, Eliseu
Anyukov, Alves, Lombaerts, Yanbaev
Zyryanov, Denisov, Shirokov
Faizulin, Kerzhakov, Hulk
Having led his team to an impressive 3-1 victory over Levante at the weekend, Malaga coach Manuel Pellegrini must decide whether to stick with the same players who have delivered 10 points in the opening four rounds of La Liga or rest weary legs. Argentine striker Javier Saviola netted for his new club on Saturday, and will vie with Roque Santa Cruz for a place in the starting line-up.
Brazil international Hulk appeared in the second half of Zenit's 2-0 capitulation at home to Terek, and the powerful forward will be hopeful of gaining the nod to start in attack as the Russians attempt to start their Champions League campaign on a positive note.
|DID YOU KNOW?|
- Malaga are making their first ever appearance in the Champions League group stages. The Andalusian club earned their passage with a 2-0 aggregate victory over Panathinaikos.
- The club's last taste of European football came in 2002-03, with a run to the Uefa Cup quarter-finals that ended with defeat to Boavista.
- If Javier Saviola makes an appearance on Tuesday he will have achieved the distinction of playing in the Champions League with five different clubs, having previously done so with Barcelona, Real Madrid, Monaco and Benfica.
- Zenit currently lie top of the Russian Premier League, having won five of their seven games to date with just one reverse, to Terek.
- The club lifted the Premier title in 2011-12 for the fourth success in their history; three of those having come after the takeover by energy giant Gazprom.
- New Zenit idol Hulk (pictured) completed a €40 million move from Porto at the start of September. The Brazilian netted four goals in six Champions League appearances during 2011-12, as the Dragao side exited at the group stage.
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Top 3 Predictions
Malaga 1-2 Zenit Saint Petersburg
- 15.8 %
Malaga 2-0 Zenit Saint Petersburg
- 12.77 %
Malaga 1-1 Zenit Saint Petersburg
- 11.47 %
|UEFA Champions League (UCL)||Nov 21, 2012||Zenit Saint Petersburg 2 - Malaga 2|
|UEFA Champions League (UCL)||Sep 18, 2012||Malaga 3 - Zenit Saint Petersburg 0|
|Apr 21, 2014||Malaga 2 - Villarreal 0||LIGA|
|Apr 14, 2014||Athletic Bilbao 3 - Malaga 0||LIGA|
|Apr 6, 2014||Malaga 4 - Granada 1||LIGA|
|Mar 31, 2014||Betis 1 - Malaga 2||LIGA|
|Mar 25, 2014||Malaga 1 - Espanyol 2||LIGA|
|Zenit Saint Petersburg|
|Apr 19, 2014||Anzhi Makhachkala 1 - Zenit Saint Petersburg 2||RUS1|
|Apr 12, 2014||Zenit Saint Petersburg 4 - Krasnodar 1||RUS1|
|Apr 6, 2014||Zenit Saint Petersburg 6 - Rubin Kazan 2||RUS1|
|Mar 29, 2014||Amkar 1 - Zenit Saint Petersburg 2||RUS1|
|Mar 24, 2014||Zenit Saint Petersburg 2 - Kryliya Sovetov 1||RUS1|
|9||Roque Santa Cruz||Striker|
The 30-year-old striker still has the goalscoring touch, as well as ample experience in the Champions League. His goals could prove vital to Malaga's attempts to make the last-16.
Signing the imposing forward was a major coup for Zenit, who fought off strong competition from Chelsea for the ex-Porto man's signature. Accomplished in front of the net, Hulk's power and intelligence also make him an invaluable team player going forward.
Malaga will have to be at their best to beat a strong Zenit side bolstered by summer transfer activity; but with a solid performance, they should have enough to take something from their Champions League bow.