Madrid, Estadio Santiago Bernabéu
March 4, 2011; 02:30 am, IST
As Pellegrini comes back to Santiago Bernabeu, his memories will undoubtedly come flooding back. Some things are still the same – the lack of soundbites, the 4-2-3-1 formation, the scoring of goals by truckload and the persecution by AS and MARCA. However, quite a few have changed – instead of challenging for the title at Real Madrid, he is now fighting for survival at the bottom; instead of signing superstars he is buying has-been icons; instead of being in the middle of a media frenzy, he is living in peace.
Nonetheless, he is still the same Pellegrini – humble, sincere and never making excuses. Since January, slowly but surely, he has managed to turn it around. Three draws and a victory might not seem much, but it takes a totally different sheen if one considers that 2 of them involved playing Villarreal and Sevilla, away from home. However, the task that he now faces is much more enormous, as he visits his old “home”.
On the other side, awaits a brash & abrasive Mourinho. A man who demands the world and usually ends up getting it. After the profligacy at Riazor cost him 2 points, and most probably the title, Mourinho will certainly still be smarting. His immense ego has taken a beating and this is apparent from excuses that that ranges from choked calendars, to conniving referees, and finally to having no problems in coming second.
However, more than the result of this match, there is something much more at stake: “La Decima. The psychological damage suffered due to the draw would be quite a lot. It is Mourinho’s job to ensure that it doesn’t spill over to the UCL. Benzema has come in for a fair degree of criticism after his glaring miss at the Riazor. It was supposed to be a week where Real were supposed to reduce the lead to 3 points rather than see it return to 7.
Whatever one may accuse Mourinho of, one cannot deny that he is an astute thinker. He knows that his charge at the La Liga title is already over. However there is still everything to play for as far as Copa Del Rey and UCL are concerned. His match selections are a reflection of the same. He will try to play Kaka back to fitness, trying to fit both Benz and Ade in and will consider all other measures which could come in handy if Real make it past Lyon.
Last weekend Mourinho took his whining to a totally different level: that the calendar was too packed and unfavorably scheduled. A manager of a top club is expected to anticipate and deal with these issues. With the team already showing signs of fatigue and the fringe players not being able to step up to the mark due to lack of match practice and confidence, Mou needs to start giving his fringe players a chance to shine.
However, in the aftermath of the previous match, is unlikely to happen. Also, it will do his image no harm, if he humiliates Malaga and Pellegrini with it, so that AS and MARCA have something to croon about.
Probable starting line up: Casillas, Ramos, Pepe, Carvalho, Marcelo, Lass, Xabi, Ozil, Ronaldo, Di Maria, Adebayor
“The Beast” Julio Baptista is out and this should be considered a big blow for Malaga. A traditional 4-2-3-1 formation with wingers providing the width as well as tracking back to help out defense will be the highlight of Malaga’s play.
Asenjo, their main keeper is also out with an injury. The former Bayern man Demichelis will be expected to lead the defense line and Enzo Maresca can be expected to run the show from the midfield.
A cautious approach can be expected from Malaga.
Probable Starting Line-up: Caballero, Robson, Eliseu, Gamez, Demichelis, Recio, Camacho, Apono, Fernandez, Maresca, Rondon
TheHardTackle’s PLAYERS TO WATCH OUT FOR
Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid)
It has been quite a while since CR7 has scored. His feet will be itching to put them in and it is quite likely that his former boss will be at the receiving end. Going out on limb here, it is quite possible that he bags a brace or even a hat-trick.
Demichelis has been the cornerstone of Malaga’s defense for Pellegrini. If Malaga are to maintain a respectable scoreline, Demichelis will have to use his full experience to shut out the marauding Real Madrid attackers.
Real Madrid 4-1 Malaga
Malaga cannot defend stoutly and it has been a while since Real Madrid put up a show. Expect them to put out a goal fest in preparation for the UCL fixture next week. It is time that some “poor” team pays for all of Madrid’s misses in the last match.
TheHardTackle’s BLAST FROM THE PAST