Qatar-owned Malaga were one
of Europe's biggest spenders in the close-season and the
ambition that investment reflects faces a stern test in
Tuesday's King's Cup last-16 first leg at holders Real Madrid.
The Andalusian club added around 60 million euros worth of players to the team led by former Real coach
Manuel Pellegrini, including 20 million euros for Spain
playmaker Santi Cazorla.
While Pellegrini has targeted a top-six finish in La Liga
and a place in European competition next season, Malaga's owner,
Sheikh Abdullah Al-Thani, will be keen for them to show in the
Cup that some of the money spent is starting to bear fruit.
Jose Mourinho's Real steamrollered Malaga 4-0 in a league
game at the Rosaleda in October and Cazorla is under no
illusions about the scale of the task that faces them at Real's
"They are the second-best team in the world right now,
behind Barcelona, and they are proving it day-by-day," Cazorla
told a news conference on Sunday.
"It's going to be a very tough game and hopefully we can get
something positive out of it to keep our chances alive for the
return leg," the former Villarreal player added.
"In the league, Madrid had five or six goal-scoring chances
and netted four and it was game over.
"Playing at home with the fans behind them we'll have to be
focused and not make any mistakes because they are expensive. If
the team plays at a good level we can challenge them."
Even if Malaga can get past Real, their likely opponent in
the last eight will present no less of a challenge to their bid
for silverware this season.
Barca, who lost 1-0 to Real in the 2011 final, will play the
winners of the Real-Malaga tie if they can dispose of La Liga
rivals Osasuna, with the first leg being played at the Nou Camp
Last month's draw also set up a clash between Valencia and
Sevilla on Thursday and Real Sociedad and Real Mallorca on
Wednesday in the only other all-La Liga ties.
Third-tier Albacete, who knocked out Atletico Madrid, play
Athletic Bilbao on Tuesday, Mirandes, also in the third division
and conquerors of Villarreal, face Racing Santander the same day
and second tier Alcorcon and Cordoba play Levante and Espanyol
on Tuesday and Thursday respectively.
Real could be without Angel di Maria on Tuesday after he
damaged a thigh muscle in training last week.
The Argentina winger has been a key player for Mourinho's
side this season, scoring four goals in La Liga and one in the
Champions League and providing 12 assists.
Malaga also have a couple of notable absentees, with Brazil
forward Julio Baptista and former Spain winger Joaquin both
sidelined by injury.
"They'll notice Di Maria's absence a bit for sure but
whoever plays it's going to be difficult," Cazorla said.
"We also have important players missing, like Baptista, who
has been out for a long time, and now Joaquin, who is a key
player who brings great things to the team."
The return legs are next week.
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