There isn't a more in-form side than Real Madrid at the moment (Bayern Munich fans doth protest too much, methinks). This is a team that hasn't lost since October 26 in all competitions, a streak of 30 unbeaten games.
Try to wrap your heads around that one, folks. To put that in perspective, Malaga come into this contest with an unbeaten streak of their own: three games. Yeah, three whole games.
Even on the road, Real Madrid will come into this game as significant favorites. Let's break down this La Liga showdown.
When: Saturday at 3 p.m. ET
Saturday at 7 p.m. GMT
Where: Estadio La Rosaleda, Malaga, Spain
Watch: beIN Sports; beIN Sports Play
Chances: Real Madrid (58.1 percent), Malaga (21.4 percent) and draw (20.5 percent), according to Bloomberg Sports
You know about the unbeaten streak. You know about the star power with players like Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema and Angel di Maria destroying teams on the attack. You might know that Malaga is just three points clear of the relegation zone, ensnared in a tough season, or that they've already lost six of their 13 home games.
So, um, is there any possible way Malaga can pull off the upset?
Well, they might take solace in the fact that Real Madrid could be overlooking them, what with a Champions League matchup against Schalke next week (though to be fair, Real Madrid lead 6-1 on aggregate) and an El Clasico to follow, seemingly with a La Liga title on the line.
Win that, and Los Blancos will go seven points ahead of Barca (assuming both teams win over the weekend). Lose that, and Atletico Madrid could pull even and Barcelona might be just a point behind. The stakes couldn't be any higher for world football's most heated rivalry, so you could forgive Real Madrid for looking past Malaga.
Heck, Diego Lopez was already talking about that game, well over a week in advance. His comments, via ESPNFC.com:
They are three very important points. Barcelona is a direct rival and we can extend the gap with them, but there is still a game before. We have to win in Malaga, keep the gap at four points with Barcelona and then grow it to seven.
We must go from game to game in the three competitions—that has been going well for us, and will go well for us. Atletico are very strong and Barca, whatever they say, will be in there until the end.
And Malaga might also be hoping Real Madrid start to feel the pressure building to win a treble as well. After all, they are already in the Copa del Rey final, and folks are starting to talk up their odds to pull off the rare feat.
Here's Fernando Hierro, Los Blancos icon, talking up the team's chances to Esports en Xarxa via Mark Doyle of Goal.com:
Without a doubt. Real Madrid can claim the treble. I can easily see it [happening].
However, in the Champions League, they cannot have a single bad day. Madrid are now at an extraordinary level but do not rule out Barca, Bayern [Munich] or PSG, who could also be very dangerous.
Madrid, though, are very strong, very powerful. They have undergone a complete change in five months and now have great potential.
Yes, Malaga's best hope in this game is that Real Madrid start to feel invincible, that they start taking their form for granted, that they simultaneously buy into their own hype and look ahead to more challenging fixtures.
Remember, this is a Malaga side that played Barcelona and Atletico Madrid tough at home (both 1-0 losses). Yes, they hardly score (just 26 goals), but they also play pretty tough defense (35 goals allowed). Now, they'll need that defense to put forth its best effort of the season.
Do they have it in them?
No, probably not. Ronaldo has nearly as many goals (24) as Malaga have scored all season long, and combining the tallies from Ronaldo, Bale and Benzema (49) nearly doubles what Malaga has been able to muster all season long.
This is a mismatch of pretty epic proportions, and Los Blancos can afford to really concentrate on this contest given their huge cushion over Schalke. Even at home, it's hard to see Malaga finding a way to earn even a point in this match.
Real Madrid wins, 4-0.
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