If their transfer dealings this summer confirmed that their big-spending days are over, a gutsy 1-0 win at Real Zaragoza on Saturday shows that Malaga continue to profit where it counts – on the pitch.
There has been no idling from the players of the Spanish seaside city recently – starting the season with five matches unbeaten in league and Champions League means they are well positioned to launch a bid for their second successive top-four finish. Fantastic odds of 11/4 are now on offer for Manuel Pellegrini’s team to hold back the financial tide threatening to engulf them and claim more La Liga success.
While selling the likes of Santi Cazorla, Salomon Rondon and Joris Mathijsen as their owners lose interest was a blow, the crisis seems to have strengthened Malaga’s character. Champions League group stage money should keep the debt collectors at bay, while the signings of experienced names like Roque Santa Cruz, Oguchi Onyewu and former Real Madrid man Javier Saviola (all on free transfers or loans) can steady the ship.
The odds on Malaga look especially appealing when Atletico Madrid, the team Malaga pipped to fourth place last season, are backable at a paltry 3/4 for a top-four finish. Atletico were rampant against Chelsea in the European Super Cup, but they still need to prove consistency throughout the La Liga season and did nothing in the transfer window to counter their reliance on one-man scoring machine Radamel Falcao.
Athletic Bilbao’s odds of a top-four finish were reduced to 9/2 after clinging on to Fernando Llorente and notching up their first win of the season over Real Valladolid.
I fancy Valencia (now priced 17/20) to join Malaga and the obvious top two in the four Champions League slots again come next May – Los Che are still without a win but have already played their two most difficult matches of the season, away fixtures at Barcelona and Real Madrid.
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