Malaga coach Manuel Pellegrini admits that his side cannot afford to concede an away goal to Porto if they want to keep their Champions League adventure going into the quarterfinal stage.
Little was expected of a Malaga side playing in Europe’s premier competition for the first time after a summer of financial turmoil that saw big-name players leaving the club. But, having gone through their group undefeated, Pellegrini is in no mood to go down without a fight.
Malaga lost 1-0 in Porto three weeks ago, a result that leaves the La Liga outfit in a precarious situation of needing to score at La Rosaleda, but also knowing that an away goal would leave them needing to score three.
“It is a different match,” Pellegrini said, according to UEFA’s Web site. “We have already played 90 minutes of the 180; we have to turn it around and they can't score here. It is important not to concede any goals.
“There is a lot of expectation in Malaga as we have the chance to get through to the next stage and we are focused on qualifying. We need to be patient and we must not allow ourselves to be affected by nerves. We need to score a goal—the sooner the better.”
With Malaga handed a ban from European competition for next season by UEFA—although they are appealing the decision—and with a second season suspension having over their heads for unpaid debts, if they exit on Wednesday it could be a long time before the Spaniards are back on the European stage.
Malaga’s recent form in La Liga has left them in an increasingly tight battle to qualify for next season’s Champions League, even if the ban is overturned. Since the first leg in Porto, Malaga have taken just two points from their three games. Including the match with Porto, they have scored just once in four matches.
Porto not only have a strong advantage in the tie but also far greater European experience in recent seasons to call upon. Coach Vitor Pereira, though, is not planning on sitting back and trying to hold onto their slender lead.
“We know what we can do and that Malaga will want to score early,” he said. “We don't play to defend a lead. We are competitive, while they are going to take risks. We like to play attacking football, we are ambitious, and we will play how we are used to playing.
“Malaga proved their quality in the Dragao. The difference is that they will start looking for a goal, but if we can score we will put them under pressure.”
Porto remain unbeaten in the Portuguese Liga this season, although they still sit second in the table, two points behind Benfica. The Portuguese champions come into the match with Malaga on the back of a 2-0 victory over Estoril last Friday.
Prediction: It is a tough task awaiting Malaga and one that illustrates the importance and indeed absurdity of the away goals rule. The home side are likely to be in constant fear of conceding, which could well limit their attacking ambition, despite their need to score.
It looks set to be a tense and cagey encounter. Malaga will have to eventually come out and be more offensive than the first leg and that could well leave gaps that that passing of Joao Moutinho, pace of James Rodriguez and finishing of Jackson Martinez could help exploit to all-but seal Porto’s progress.
Malaga 1-1 Porto
The second leg of the Champions League round-of-16 tie will kick-off from La Rosaleda at 3.45 p.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by Fox Soccer plus.