Nouveau riche Malaga matched Real
Madrid´s spending power during the closed season and can measure
how far they have come on the field of play when the world´s
wealthiest football club by income visits the Rosaleda in La Liga
Malaga is better known as the heart of the Costa del Sol
rather than as a footballing power - the club have never won a
major trophy but they have been transformed since Qatari Sheikh
Abdullah al Thani bought them last year.
Veteran Dutch striker Ruud van Nistelrooy was an important
arrival for the new campaign, and he joins high-calibre
internationals Julio Baptista of Brazil, Spain´s Santi Cazorla,
France´s Jeremy Toulalan and Argentina´s Martin Demichelis.
Van Nistelrooy is one of a number of Malaga personnel with
links to Real, having helped them to win consecutive La Liga
titles in 2007 and 2008, along with Baptista, sporting director
Fernando Hierro, and coach Manuel Pellegrini.
"[Real] are on a good run of form and for us it is a big
challenge to see where we are at present," the 35-year-old Van
Nistelrooy told reporters.
"It comes at a good time for us because after what happened
in Levante [3-0 defeat last weekend] we have our feet on the
ground. We are a new team... we have character, we know where we
want to go, and we are on the right path."
Pellegrini has guided them to sixth place after seven games,
three points behind their third-placed visitors despite the
surprise reverse at early pace-setters Levante, and they defend
a 100 percent home record.
There is no love lost between Pellegrini and the person who
replaced him at the Bernabeu, Jose Mourinho, after they
exchanged barbed comments before last season´s clash, and the
pre-match handshake will make interesting viewing.
Real have won their last five games, scoring 21 goals along
the way, and are one point behind leaders Barcelona, who host
fourth-placed Sevilla on Saturday.
Barca have also won five on the trot, without conceding, and
face another miserly side in Sevilla, who have plugged the holes
at the back from last season under new coach Marcelino.
Sevilla are, however, one of the lowest scoring teams in the
top half of the table and will be without Spain striker Alvaro
Negredo who has failed to recover from a thigh injury in time.
Cash-strapped Levante, who have had an astonishing start to
the campaign, visit struggling Villarreal on Sunday when
a sixth consecutive victory could keep them level with Barca at
the top, and ahead of Real.
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