Portugal’s Estadio do Dragao will be the scene for the round-of-16 Champions League showdown between home team Porto and Spanish La Liga visitors Malaga on Feb. 19. Porto has been one of
Portugal’s most successful teams in European competitions while Malaga doesn’t really have much history in Europe. However, Porto manager Vitor Pereira said his players can’t threat their opposition lightly or they’ll pay for it.
Porto has won European Cups twice in the past as they won the Champions League with former manager Jose Mourinho at the helm in 2004 and they also hoisted the Europa League cup as recently as
2011 with Tottenham boss Andre Villas Boas in charge of the club back then. This is the first time Malaga has taken part in the Champions League and they’ve done well to reach the knockout stage. Actually they’ve done better than that as they’re unbeaten in the tournament so far.
Pereira said the past doesn’t mean anything and Malaga has proven that they’re currently one of the best teams in Europe. They sit in fourth place in the Spanish league and have proven their quality by beating Milan in the group stage. The manager said Malaga obviously has some great individual players, but they’re very impressive as they play well together as a team.
But while Malaga may be performing well on the pitch, the club is in some financial difficulty at the moment and they could help some this by advancing as far as possible in the Champions League, so they’ll definitely be motivated. They could end up selling some of their top players to raise money and one of them could be 20-year-old playmaker Isco. The team has already had to sell off Nacho Monreal and Santi Cazorla and the defender and midfielder both ended up in the English Premier League with
Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal.
Losing Monreal could be costly against Porto since Malaga manager Manuel Pellegrini will be without defenders Jesus Gamez and Eliseu. However, it’s expected that midfielder Martin Demichelis may return to the squad. For Porto, Pereira said he’s not sure if James Rodriguez will be back in the lineup after being sidelined for the past seven games due to a thigh injury.
Porto hasn’t been too successful against Spanish teams as they’ve played them 37 times and have managed just 12 wins, five draws and 20 losses. They’ve also lost seven of these at home in 17 contests.
Malaga has played a total of 12 away games in all European competitions over the years and has just one loss to show for them. This was against Portuguese club Boavista in the UEFA Cup back in the 2002/ 03 season.
Porto goes into the game with four wins and a draw in their last five games while Malaga has three wins, a draw and a loss. Jackson Martinez leads Porto with three Champions League goals this season while Eliseu has the same for Malaga.
This should be an interesting contest and like many other tournament games, I wouldn’t expect Porto to be beaten at home. The best Malaga should hope for here is a draw.