Los Boquerones will attempt to become the latest side to take advantage of los Colchoneros’ slump...Testing Times
Malaga aren’t exactly rolling forward under Manuel Pellegrini in the style that they might have liked, but the Andalucians will certainly be confident about their chances of pinching three points against an Atletico Madrid side who have many woes to ponder at present.
Chilean coach Pellegrini took charge of los Boquerones after Jesualdo Ferreira’s reign proved to be extremely short lived. The Portuguese was jettisoned at the beginning of November and the former Real Madrid general was swift to take over, though in his five matches in direct charge he has mustered only six points.
On a positive note ahead of Sunday’s fixture with Atleti, all of these have come at La Rosaleda. Levante were defeated 1-0 before Racing Santander were whipped 4-1, though neither of these sides boast the kind of potential that the capital club can.
Pellegrini’s short tenure hit something of a trough last weekend, however. Faced with Hercules, Malaga were hammered 4-1, offering little resistance in the final half hour and showing few signs of improvement in a rearguard that the coach clearly isn’t satisfied with. Indeed, the 57-year-old refused to comment on individual players after that encounter and significant changes could be made ahead of this week’s match.
Atletico Madrid boss Quique Sanchez Flores was forced to fend off all kinds of rumours over his command of los Colchoneros last week after a 2-0 defeat against Levante, but things haven’t got a great deal better over the ensuing seven days. True, Deportivo La Coruna were beaten in La Primera, but los Colchoneros’ crashed unexpectedly out of Europe on Thursday.
The capital side travelled to Bayer Leverkusen in midweek, knowing that saving their skins was unlikely. Nevertheless, a strong team was deployed at the BayArena and ultimately this side wasn’t good enough to see off the Germans. Concurrently, Greek minnows Aris were busy beating Rosenborg, booking their place in the last 32.
“All we have to do now is accept the consequences and forget [the elimination] as soon as possible,” Flores argued to the media on Thursday. “Hopefully our return to Europe is through the front door, the Champions League. We have two competitions in which we must do our utmost.”
Given Atleti’s present form, a return to Europe at all would be something of a success. Though stationed sixth in the Spanish top flight, los Colchoneros’ form has been unsatisfactory for a side with pretensions of playing amongst the continent’s best next season. Three wins in eight is not good enough, and neither is their away record, which shows just two successes in seven matches.
Kris Stadsgaard, Weligton and Seba Fernandez all complained of physical ailments after the Hercules match but are expected to take up a position in the starting XI at the weekend.
Apono remains a problem for the Andalucian club.
Jose Antonio Reyes was not risked in midweek because the cold weather was not thought to be suitable for his muscles. The former Sevilla and Arsenal player should return to the squad for this fixture.
Atleti have no selection worries.