Real Madrid vs. Malaga: Complete La Liga Preview
Two sides who will both be pleased to see the end of the league season now, meet at the Santiago Bernabeu on Wednesday night (21:30 CET).
Real Madrid are 11 points behind Barcelona and eight ahead of Atletico Madrid, while Malaga are hanging on to sixth spot despite losing three of their last five matches.
Scheduled for next weekend, the fixture has been brought forward due to the Copa del Rey final between Real and Atletico.
It will be a return to Madrid for Manuel Pellegrini, who was succeeded by Jose Mourinho is 2010.
Mourinho looks set to continue to be without a trio of defenders.
The Champions League semifinal took its toll on Sergio Ramos, and he—along with Alvaro Arbeloa and Marcelo—missed the weekend's win over Real Valladolid.
None are far away from fitness, but with next weekend's cup final in mind, risks are not expected.
Central defender Raul Albiol could come into the side, though. He missed out last time due to suspension.
For Malaga, they remain without three players who have played such a big part in their season.
Eliseu, Jesus Gamez and Jeremy Toulalan all missed the defeat to Granada on Saturday and will all miss the trip to Madrid.
Elsewhere, Manuel Pellegrini doesn't have too much of a squad to play with. Isco, Ignacio Camacho and friends will continue to be placed in the shop window.
Despite the furor surrounding Real Madrid's European exit to Dortmund, their form in the league has remained consistent.
They've now won 11 of their last 12 La Liga games—drawing the other—since losing to Granada at the beginning of February.
In all competitions, they've tasted defeat twice in the last month though—trips to Galatasaray and Borussia Dortmund proving unsuccessful.
The pattern of Malaga's recent league form suggests they will win at the Bernabeu, their last six games have alternated between a win and a loss (W-L-W-L-W-L).
That's where the encouraging signs end though.
A nosedive in form has resulted in just three wins in their last 10 matches in the Primera Division and four wins from their last 14 in all competitions.
Men to Watch
The diminutive Croatian midfielder could well have a part to play in Madrid's future after all.
With Xabi Alonso's contract renewal remaining uncertain (via the Independent), and Modric's improvement in form since January, Wednesday night presents another opportunity for the 27-year-old to enhance his growing reputation in the Spanish capital.
As the opening of the summer transfer window ticks ever closer, so to do the chances of Isco departing Andalusia.
Last summer—and January—saw the sales of Santi Cazorla, Salomon Rondon and Nacho Monreal and more are expected soon as Malaga try to balance the books.
In front of Europe's watching scouts, the 21-year-old will be looking to impress at the Bernabeu.
Malaga form part the quartet of teams to have beaten Real Madrid in Andalusia this season—Sevilla, Real Betis and Granada are the others.
In the last game before the winter break, Pellegrini's side defeated Mourinho's men 3-2 at La Rosaleda.
Isco opened the scoring, a Sergio Sanchez own goal briefly leveled things before Roque Santa Cruz's brace opened up a two goal lead.
Karim Benzema scored late on to ensure a nervy ending, but the home side held on for a memorable victory.
Real Madrid: Diego Lopez; Nacho Fernandez, Pepe, Raul Albiol, Fabio Coentrao; Sami Khedira, Luka Modric; Angel Di Maria, Mesut Ozil, Cristiano Ronaldo; Gonzalo Higuain
Malaga: Willy Caballero; Sergio Sanchez, Martin Demichelis, Weligton, Vitorino Antunes; Ignacio Camacho, Manuel Iturra; Joaquin, Julio Baptista, Isco; Javier Saviola
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