As the Champions League last 16 draw paired Real Madrid with Manchester United, there must have been many at the Bernabeu who wished that the end of February and the first leg could come around even sooner.
Claiming a 10th European crown has been firmly at the front of Madrid’s mind for some time now, but as the side continues to struggle in La Liga, the Champions League has become even more prominent on the horizon.
Following last Sunday’s disappointing 2-2 draw at home to Espanyol, Madrid now sit 13 points behind Barcelona in the La Liga standings. With continued speculation about the future of boss Jose Mourinho, all is not well at the Bernabeu. Yet Mourinho has claimed that all the focus is purely on the next match.
“We do not think about a win or a loss putting us closer or further away,” he said, according to Real Madrid’s official website. “The only thing that we can do is to play with the intention of winning and improving. We do not pick our competitions. Each match is treated as a new battle and we have a duty to always give our all to try to win.”
Real Madrid face a difficult challenge to get back to winning ways against a Malaga side that sit fourth in La Liga and are also into the Champions League’s knockout stages.
"I think they are having a very good season,” Mourinho commented. “Good in the Champions League; good in La Liga and playing well. I can only say positive things. Good work.”
As well as an impressive Malaga team, Mourinho also faces the man he replaced in Madrid back in 2010, Manuel Pellegrini. The Chilean has been heralded for his work this season in continuing Malaga’s success on the pitch, despite uncertainty about the financial situation of the club.
Jeremy Toulalan and Julio Baptista remain on the sidelines for Malaga, while they will also be without defender Weligton through suspension.
Real Madrid are short at the back with Raul Albiol and Raphael Varane out and Fabio Coentrao an injury doubt.
D: Gamez, Demichelis, Onyewu, Monreal
M: Camacho, Iturra
Joaquin, Isco, Eliseu
Real Madrid (probable)
D: Arbeloa, Ramos, Pepe, Nacho
M: Khedira, Alonso
Di Maria, Ozil, Ronaldo
Prediction: Real Madrid have been poor on their travels so far this season and they could well drop more points against a strong Malaga side. With plenty of attacking talent on show there is a strong prospect for an entertaining fixture and a high-scoring draw may be on the cards.
Malaga 2-2 Real Madrid
Where to watch: The La Liga match kicks-off from the Estadio La Rosaleda at 2 p.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by beIN Sport. A live stream, which you view at your own discretion, will be available here.