It has been an impressive Champions League debut for Manuel Pellegrini’s Malaga side, who qualified for the last 16 of the competition having topped a group including AC Milan. They picked up three wins and three draws from their six games along the way but things aren’t going quite so well in the first knock-out stage.
Malaga have to overcome a 1-0 deficit at home to Porto on Wednesday evening in order to progress to the quarter-finals after they suffered in the first leg, an encounter they will regard themselves lucky not to have ended further behind thanks to wasteful finishing from the hosts.
Joao Moutinho’s strike ten minutes after the break proved enough for Vitor Pereira’s men to travel to the Estadio La Rosaleda with the advantage, which wasn’t an overly surprising result given they are unbeaten at home in this competition since 2009.
Malaga managed to muster just two attempts on goal at the Estadio do Dragao, neither of which found the target, and while they’re firmly in the tie, an away goal from Porto would leave them needing at least three goals to progress through to the quarter-finals.
It’s Pereira’s men that have been priced as favourites to record victory at 31/20, with the draw at 23/10, while a Malaga success can be backed at 33/20 in what should be an interesting spectacle given they have to go for it, but will be wary of conceding.
Porto are odds on to progress at 11/50, while Malaga are priced at 3/1 to make it through to the next round.
Since the turn of the year, Pellegrini’s side have won just four of their 14 games in all competitions, and followed up their defeat in the first leg with a loss and two draws. They now sit fifth in La Liga, just behind Real Sociedad in fourth on goal difference.
Despite possessing an attack that includes the likes of Javier Saviola, Roque Santa Cruz and Isco, the Spaniards have failed to find the net in three of their last five outings, their strike in the 1-1 draw at Valladolid on Saturday ending the barren run.
That doesn’t make for good reading taking into account the defensive capabilities of their opponents, who have conceded just ten goals in 22 league matches, and have kept more clean sheets in this competition than any other side this season with five.
Given that Pereira’s side are likely to sit back and try and hit their hosts on the counter as Malaga did in the first leg, goals in this match are unlikely to be at a premium, and backing the game to feature under 2.5 goals at 18/25 looks a good bet.
Porto sit second behind Benfica in the Portuguese top flight, unbeaten domestically having won 17 and drawn five of their league matches, and haven’t tasted defeat in their last 16 outings, going back to their narrow 2-1 loss at PSG in the group stages.
In striker Jackson Martinez, they have a man who certainly knows how to find the net – the Colombian has notched 26 goals in competitive fixtures this season, including three in his last two outings, and is a good price at 9/5 to score at anytime.
His side have fared rather well against Spanish opposition in recent meetings: they are unbeaten in their last eight encounters with La Liga clubs in the Champions League, going back to 2003 when they went down to Real Madrid.
Malaga are a strong outfit at home, having lost just three of their 14 league matches, winning seven and drawing four, while also seeing off AC Milan and Zenit St Petersburg on home soil in the group stage, and will be desperate for their Champions League adventure to continue.
Their opponents however have vast experience in this competition, emerging victorious back in 2004 under Jose Mourinho, so know what is required at this stage. The 1-1 draw at 21/4 would be enough to see them through, and at that price is certainly worth backing.