MADRID — Malaga’s splurge of more than €100 million of Qatari cash finally appears to be paying off, but their grip on fourth and a Champions League qualification spot faces the sternest of tests at leaders Real Madrid.
Led by former Real coach Manuel Pellegrini and owned by a member of the Gulf state’s royal family, the Andalusian club splashed out €20 million for Spain playmaker Santi Cazorla alone in the close season.
Others including former Manchester United and Real striker Ruud van Nistelrooy, France midfielder Jeremy Toulalan and former Spain winger Joaquin have also joined the project and will be fired up for their team’s bid to achieve what no team apart from Barcelona has managed this season; beat Real at their imposing Bernabeu arena.
Shown the door to make way for Jose Mourinho at the end of the 2009-2010 season, Pellegrini can take heart from his team’s performance against Real in a King’s Cup last-16 first leg in January, when they opened a shock 2-0 lead before losing 3-2 and going down 1-0 in the return leg.
Full-back Jesus Gamez is hoping some of the Real players will be weary after their exertions in Wednesday’s 4-1 Champions League victory at home to CSKA Moscow, which put them through to the quarterfinals 5-2 on aggregate.
“Madrid have a great squad, although hopefully some of those who played (against CSKA) will play again and that could help us,” Gamez told a news conference on Wednesday.
“The way the coach has us playing, the team is on its best form right now and the win at Getafe (on March 3) and three straight victories overall helps you work better and go out feeling less pressure,” he added.
“Madrid have players who can hold on to the ball, but their biggest strength is their attacking ability and speed.
“We can try to keep the ball, we have our way of playing and it seems to be paying off.” —Reuters