Malaga winger Joaquin Sanchez is promising a big performance from his side today as the Spanish side host Borussia Dortmund in a UEFA Champions League quarter-final in their first ever appearance in the competition.
“We’ll go out aggressive and look for a result at home, but not even an 8-0 win would allow us to relax in Germany,” Sanchez said on Monday.
“These are the games that footballers want to play in, we’re very happy to enjoy this atmosphere and that the fans can join in, you can sense the club’s dreams everywhere you go here,” the former Spain international told a press conference.
In last month’s 2-0 second-leg win over Porto, Malaga turned around a tie they were losing by a single goal after the away game and once again showed the good home form that allowed them to top their qualifying group ahead of AC Milan.
Indeed, Malaga have never lost at home in 13 European games in their history. That includes group wins this season over the Italian giants, plus Zenit St Petersburg and a qualifying-round win over Panathinaikos for a home record in the competition that reads four wins and one draw, hitting 10 goals and conceding only 2 in the process.
The form of Argentine goalkeeper Willy Caballero has been decisive for their progress, with Malaga boasting La Liga’s second-best defensive record, and his form will be key if Borussia Dortmund are to be thwarted at La Rosaleda.
“We have to be up for it and play Borussia on equal terms. That will be difficult because they are a team that attacks well and have a whole lot more. For us, it’s a dream, but we must be strong in the home game,” Caballero said.
Jurgen Klopp’s Dortmund are renowned for their attacking prowess, having scored 91 goals in all competitions this season in 40 games, including a 2-2 draw at the Santiago Bernabeu that came after they beat Real Madrid 2-1 in Germany to top Group D.
Caballero will come face-to-face with in-form striker Robert Lewandowski, who has scored in nine consecutive Bundesliga outings and has 13 goals in his past 13 games for the club.
The Poland international got the winner on Saturday as Dortmund won 2-1 at VfB Stuttgart to deny Bayern Munich an early celebration of the Bundesliga title.
Borussia trail Munich by a massive 20 points, but remain in contention to finish second, sitting four points clear of Bayer 04 Leverkusen, with three wins in their past four matches.
Malaga are also in contention for qualification for next season’s competition as they currently sit fifth in La Liga, but the Costa del Sol club is banned by UEFA from next season’s competition, barring an appeal, for outstanding debts.
Coach Manuel Pellegrini’s feat to get his side to the quarter-finals in such circumstances is enviable, doing so he becomes the first manager to take two debutant teams so far in the competition, having led Villarreal to the semi-finals in 2006.
His side grabbed a first win in five league games on Saturday, 3-1 at Rayo Vallecano de Madrid, but their form in general has been patchy since the turn of the year, with just six wins in 17 games.
A major boost from Saturday’s win was a first goal of the season for former Arsenal and Real Madrid forward Julio Baptista, who was making only his seventh appearance in the past 18 months due to Achilles and hamstring injuries.
Malaga will have almost a full squad to call on today, with the likely exception being Portuguese fullback Eliseu, who is still recovering from a knee injury picked up in January. Mats Hummels with ankle ligament trouble, Sebastian Kehl and leftback Marcel Schmelzer, who suffered a broken nose in Saturday’s game, are all doubts for the Germans.