Key Battles in Malaga vs. Atletico Madrid La Liga Match
One of the biggest clashes of the Spanish top-flight season comes up on Sunday as second-place Atletico Madrid travel to fourth-place Malaga, with both teams hoping for three points to boost their top-four credentials.
After Real Madrid beat Barcelona 2-1 on Saturday, they closed the gap on their city rivals Atleti to just one point.
A win for Atletico, then, will give them more breathing space in second place—but will also close the gap to league-leaders Barcelona to nine points.with 12 games left to play.
Malaga are facing a ban from European competition for next season, but as they hope to overturn it, a top-four place is vital to continue in the Champions League. They have only a one-point gap between themselves and Valencia in fifth.
It promises to be a massive fixture, and here are the biggest matchups within the game which could determine the outcome.
Martin Demichelis vs. Radamel Falcao
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Top centre-back vs. top centre-forward; who performs better over the 90 minutes could determine the final outcome of the match.
Atletico tend to attack quickly and directly to make the most of Radamel Falcao's attacking prowess, but Martin Demichelis is a quality defender and has been one of the most impressive performers for Malaga this season.
The aerial battle between the two could be pivotal in Atletico being a goal threat, while his movement off the ball will also trouble even the experienced pairing of Demichelis and Weligton.
Isco vs. Mario Suarez
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At the other end of the pitch, Isco in the attacking midfield role for Malaga will be one of their most important players as they bid to overcome Atletico.
Isco's ability on the ball, and his movement around the final third, sees much of their attacking play go through him in support of the forward, who could be Javier Saviola or Roque Santa Cruz.
Up against him will be midfield double-pivot of Gabi and Mario Suarez. The duo dovetail nicely in providing cover in front of the defence and moving the ball forward into the midfield and attacking lines, but Isco's movement in deeper areas means that it could be Suarez who sees more of him and needs to control his effect on the game.
Vitorino Antunes vs. Arda Turan
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One of Atleti's most impressive performers this season has been Arda Turan.
Playing from the right of the attacking line behind striker Falcao, Turan has licence to roam somewhat and get involved centrally, but still much of his good work comes from wide areas.
Turan has four goals and three assists this season, but he is frequently involved in Atleti's buildup play and is capable of good delivery from his flank.
He'll be up against Vitorino Antunes, who has come into the side on loan at left-back for Malaga since Nacho Monreal's move to Arsenal in January.
Antunes' Malaga career has started well, but he'll have to be at his best to thwart Turan on Sunday.
Ignacio Camacho vs. Gabi
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One of the big midfield battles will see Ignacio Camacho and Gabi going head to head.
The two are underrated midfielders who are capable of influencing the course of any game in a big way, and both have impressive defensive statistics this season for their respective clubs.
Camacho, with Malaga as the home team, will be expected to help dictate the play as much as possible. It is in his steadfastness and ability to read the game that he may have his biggest impact, balancing the midfield for his team when Atletico look to break forward quickly after turnovers in possession.
Don't expect to see either name on the scoresheet or even setting up goals, but both should put in reliable and responsible performances for their teams to help not lose, which is arguably as important as trying to win with the stakes so high for both clubs.