La Liga 17/18 Gameweek 23: Malaga vs Atletico Madrid– Lineups, Preview and Prediction
Atletico Madrid hope to keep their title hopes alive with a win against bottom-club Malaga.
15:15 GMT, Saturday 10th February, La Rosaleda (Malaga, Spain)
After ten seasons of top flight football, Malaga look set for relegation. The club from the south coast of Spain are firmly rooted to bottom of the table. Malaga have 13 points from 22 games and are seven points adrift from safety. The Andalusians have won only three times this season and their last victory came seven matches ago.
New manager Jose Gonzalez has showed some small signs of turning things around and has only lost one of his three games in charge. Malaga are running out of time to pull themselves out of trouble and will need to start picking up unlikely wins if they are to amass enough points to escape relegation.
Atletico Madrid have had a brilliant domestic season so far and a 1-0 loss to Espanyol in December remains their only defeat in the league. Diego Simeone’s side are nine points clear of third-placed Valencia, yet still trail league-leaders Barcelona by the same margin. With Champions League qualification all but secured, Atleti have not given up on catching the Catalan giants.
Finishing ahead of their great rivals Real will bring the Atleti faithful plenty of joy, but if Los Rojiblancos can maintain their current form then their fans may continue to dream of the title, for at least another few months.
Last Time Out
Las Palmas 1-0 Malaga (La Liga)
After two consecutive draws, Malaga were hoping to put on a much improved performance against fellow relegation candidates, Las Palmas. Neither side deserved maximum points in a game devoid of any real quality.
The home side dominated possession but failed to create any genuine chances and the visitors offered very little in return.
A draw looked inevitable until the dying moments, when Alen Halilovic found the space to score and consign Malaga to yet another defeat.
Atletico Madrid 1-0 Valencia (La Liga)
Atletico Madrid further consolidated their second-place position and ended any lingering hopes of a Valencia title challenge with a hard-fought home win.
The game was ultimately won in the midfield, with Koke and Saul Niguez particularly impressive in the middle of the park.
In a game of few clear-cut chances, a wonderful strike from Angel Correa on the hour mark proved to be the winner.
Jose Gonzalez has a number of key players returning from injury in the next few weeks.
Midfielder Recio (hip), defender Miguel Torres (calf) are both close to returning to full fitness but may be absent this weekend.
Attacking pair Diego Rolan (achilles) and Adalberto Penaranda (hamstring) have returned to training after injury but Saturday may come to soon for either of them to feature.
Left midfielder Juan Carlos Perez (cruciate ligament) remains a long term injury doubt.
In better news, winger Chory Castro should make his return from suspension and start out wide.
Atletico Madrid Lineup
Diego Simeone has not had to contend with many injures this season and the only absentees this weekend will be defensive duo Diego Godin (tooth) and Stefan Savic (thigh).
There are slight doubts over the fitness of Filipe Luis (thigh) and Nicolas Gaitan (knock) but both should be fit to start.
Key Battle: Brown Ideye (Malaga) vs Diego Costa (Atletico Madrid)
Nigerian striker Brown Ideye signed for Malaga in the final days of the January transfer window. His new side have only scored 14 goals in 22 games and are in desperate need of a reliable finisher. The 29-year-old is making a temporary return to Europe after his first season with parent club Tianjin Teda.
Before moving to China, Ideye enjoyed the two most prolific seasons of his career, scoring 23 goals in 43 games. His new club need him to show that kind of form if they are to have any hope of survival.
Diego Costa has looked impressively sharp for a man who has not played competitive football for half a season. He has scored three goals in his five starts in all competitions and looks to be forming a potent striking partnership with Antoine Griezmann.
The 29-year-old was named Atletico Madrid’s player of the month for January, casting out any doubts about his ability to fit back into Diego Simeone’s style. Costa offers his team something different to the guile of Griezmann and provides a direct outlet when Atleti find themselves on the back foot.
Can Malaga start scoring at home?
Malaga have a decent defensive record compared to other teams in the relegation battle. They have only conceded 35 goals, as compared to the 51 and 50 conceded by Deportivo La Coruna and Las Palmas respectively. Their real failings have come in attack. The Andalusians have only scored 14 goals in 22 games which has prevented them from converting spirited performances into valuable points.
Significantly, Malaga have failed to score in their last four home games. Against Levante and Girona they had plenty of chances to win but wasteful finishing cost them what would otherwise have been confidence boosting victories. They have a solid defensive platform in place. If they can start to show more attacking threat then they may just give themselves a chance of staying up.
Will Atletico Madrid start to shift their focus to the Europa League?
Atletico Madrid find themselves in something of a limbo at the midway point of the season. In La Liga they have already all-but secured a top four finish, but are unlikely to challenge Barcelona for the title. Defeat in the Copa del Rey semi finals at the hands of Sevilla mean that their only realistic chance of silverware this season lies in the Europa League.
Atleti have a squad more than capable of winning Europe’s second tier competition and Diego Simeone may be tempted to rest his players in La Liga to keep them fresh for European games. This weekend may come to early for Malaga, but as Atleti progress they may pick the occasional weakened team to be taken advantage of.
Prediction: Malaga 0-2 Atletico Madrid
Malaga have shown signs of improvement following the appointment of Jose Gonzalez, but they have a long way to go before they can be competitive again in La Liga. A solid defensive platform is only useful if backed up by clinical finishing. Atletico Madrid are looking increasingly confident and should come through this game with some ease.
Will Malaga end their winless run?
Let us know in the comments section below…