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SEEKING THE PROMISED LAND – Is the Champions League dream finally on for big-spending Malaga?
- Updated: 28 February, 2012
Malaga finally looked like a team that could realistically challenge for a Champions League spot on Saturday, as a 5-1 thumping of beleaguered Real Zaragoza moved them into the top four and had la Rosaleda bouncing.
Results on Sunday meant they slipped back down to sixth, but the European dream is very much on now for the big-spending Andalucians.
The game against Zaragoza signals the start of what should be an “easy” run for Malaga – six of their next nine games are against teams in the bottom half, with four of those games being played at home. Wins are vital, with the league so tight it is not enough to just pick up a point.
They also host the league’s surprise package Levante in two games time and although not a must-win game, it is most definitely winnable. Levante have been on a slide recently and despite finally getting back to winning ways at the weekend, it is the perfect time for Malaga to try and leap above them in the table.
With 14 games still remaining in la liga there is so much to play for, and the final run-in is promising to be one of high tension for all involved. Malaga need to get points on the board sooner rather than later as they face a tough-looking finish to the campaigns with trips to Atletico and Barcelona, as well as hosting Valencia.
It was a must win for the team on Saturday however. It was vital to bounce back after the mauling they were given by in-form Athletic Bilbao and the game against los leones perhaps showed Malaga’s weakness. Alhough they are improving as a side, they cannot compete with teams of a similar quality.
They have struggled to beat any of the ‘bigger’ teams (they beat Bilbao at home but Bilbao were playing poorly at the start of the season), which is perhaps a worrying point considering their European aspirations, where head to head is all important. Instead they have relied on points accrued from beating smaller teams.
It is something which I’m sure they will look to address, but with Atletico looking very strong and Bilbao resurgent it could put them at a disadvantage looking forward to next season.
The league has been so open this seasons as so many teams have had up and down campaigns, both Atletico and Athletic struggled with form early on, while Levante shocked everyone to lead the table after the opening few weeks. Sevilla had a record breaking start and even Barcelona have dropped more points than we are accustomed to witnessing.
This has lead to a an intriguing battle below the ‘big two’ and the table reflects the open nature of this year’s league campaign – just 11 points separate Champions League qualification from relegation.
Champions League football is tantalising close now for Pelligrini’s men and they are very much in the mix to grab that coveted fourth spot. If they can secure football in the world’s most prestigious club competition who knows where it will take them, they have they money to offer big name players and they could very well be challenging even further up the table next season.