Despite being at home, Malaga look set to take a cautious approach to the first leg of their Champions League quarterfinal with Borussia Dortmund.
Malaga have been one of the surprise packages in their first ever season in the competition as they topped their group before bouncing back from a first-leg deficit to knockout Portuguese champions Porto.
They undoubtedly face their biggest test so far, though, when they come up against one of the dark horses to claim the trophy.
“Dortmund have a great side -- they are current Bundesliga champions and have five players who start for the German national team,” Malaga boss Manuel Pellegtini said, according to UEFA’s official Web site. “They have huge potential, are very creative in midfield, but I think their main strength is in attack. We will try to minimize their strengths while playing to ours.”
Malaga’s strength this season has been their defensive record. Only one team has conceded fewer goals than the Andalusian side in La Liga this campaign, while in meaningful matches in the Champions League they have only conceded just twice.
Key to that defensive base will be the defensive midfield duo of Manuel Iturra and Jeremy Toulalan. Pellegrini is likely to just make one change from the weekend victory at Rayo Vallecano. Pedro Morales, despite scoring and assisting two further goals, is set to miss out with either Javier Saviola or Roque Santa Cruz coming in up front and Julio Baptista dropping into an attacking midfield role.
While Malaga have no new injury worries, Dortmund will be without key defender Mats Hummels as well as midfielder Jakub Blaszczykowski through injury. There was also a doubt about left-back Marcel Schmelzer after he broke his nose in Saturday’s win at Stuttgart, but he is expected to play with the aid of a face mask.
Dortmund, inspired by the likes of young creative midfielders Mario Gotze and Marco Reus as well as Polish striker Robert Lewandowski, have produced several of the competition’s most impressive performances this season. Manager Jurgen Klopp, though, is not taking anything for granted against Malaga.
“We've played well in this season's Champions League and we want to produce more good performances,” he said. “We can't say we will be disappointed if Malaga beat us -- the name of the opposition doesn't matter, because Malaga are a very good side and Manuel Pellegrini is an excellent coach. We are concentrated on this game.”
D: Gamez, Demichelis, Weligton, Antunes
M: Iturra, Toulalan
Joaquin, Baptista, Isco
Borussia Dortmund (probable)
D: Piszczek, Santana, Subotic, Schmelzer
M: Gundogan, Bender
Grosskreutz, Gotze, Reus
Betting Odds: Borussia Dortmund are favorites to come away with a first-leg lead, priced at 11/8 with Bet 365. A Malaga win is available at 9/4, with a draw on offer at 12/5.
Where to watch: The first leg of the Champions League quarterfinal will kick-off from La Rosaleda at 2.45 p.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by Fox Soccer Plus, with a live stream available on Fox Soccer 2Go.