La Liga 17/18 Gameweek 24: Malaga vs Valencia– Lineups, Preview and Prediction
Bottom-club Malaga take on a Valencia outfit who are struggling to maintain their place in the top four.
19:45 GMT, Saturday 17th February, Estadio La Rosaleda (Malaga, Spain)
After a decade in the top tier, Malaga look set for relegation this season. Los Anchioves are in 20th place, seven points adrift of safety. They have failed to win in their last eight matches, in a period which saw them lose important ‘six-pointers’ against relegation rivals.
New manager Jose Gonzalez started well with two draws in his first couple of games. His side have shown signs of improvement under his stewardship, but need to start picking up wins quickly if they are to avoid the drop.
Early season hopes that Valencia could sustain a title challenge this season have all but fallen away in recent months. Marcelino’s men now trail Barcelona by 16 points and are nine points behind second-placed Atletico Madrid.
Los Che have won only two of their last seven games in all competitions, including a Copa del Rey semi-final loss to Barcelona. Valencia are only six points clear of fifth-placed Villarreal and on current form they may yet slip out of the top four.
Last Time Out
Malaga 0-1 Atletico Madrid (La Liga)
Malaga produced one of their best performances of the season against title-chasing Atletico Madrid.
Antoine Griezmann gave the visitors an early lead within the first minute, as Atleti raced out of the starting blocks.
From that point onwards, however, Malaga were resolute in defence, preventing their opponents from any further shots on target.
The home side created plenty of chances for themselves and will consider themselves unfortunate not to have come away with at least a point.
Valencia 3-1 Levante (La Liga)
The home side ended a run of four games without a win in all competitions. Valencia were at their attacking brilliant best and could have scored even more if they had been more clinical.
The hosts took the lead in the 17th minute after Santi Mina headed in from a Daniel Parejo corner.
Levante took only a minute to reply as Sergio Postigo volleyed in a wonderful equaliser to dampen spirits at Mestalla.
This time, however, Valencia were not to be beaten. Second-half goals from Luciano Vietto and Daniel Parejo ensured that Los Che were justly rewarded for their positive play.
Jose Gonzalez has so far been blessed with few injury absentees and will be able to name a consistent lineup on Saturday night.
Midfielder Zdravko Kuzmanovic (calf) is unlikely to be fit to start and striker Adalberto Penaranda (muscle) is still yet to return to full training.
Left back Juankar (cruciate ligament) remains a long-term injury doubt.
More positively, striker Diego Rolan should be fit to take his place in the side.
Marcelino will continue to have to do without the services of defensive duo Javi Jimenez (cruciate ligament) and Ezequiel Garay (broken leg).
Manchester United loanee Andreas Pereira is still struggling to return from a thigh injury and is unlikely to play any part this weekend.
Geoffrey Kondogbia is a doubt after struggling with a foot injury last week.
Defender Jeison Murillo and striker Rodrigo are close to returns and may well make the bench.
Key Battle: Roberto Rosales (Malaga) vs Goncalo Guedes (Valencia)
Venezuelan right back Roberto Rosales has been one of the few consistent performers for Malaga this season. The 29-year-old looked assured against the attacking talents of Atletico Madrid last week and his man-of-the-match performance against Girona last month secured his team a vital point against on-form opposition.
Rosales has now played in this Malaga side for four seasons and will be desperate to avoid the prospect of playing in the second tier next season.
On Saturday night, Rosales will come up against the challenge of Goncalo Guedes. The Portuguese winger has been a revelation this season and his periods of injury have almost directly coincided with a dip in Valencia’s form. The 21-year-old has four goals and six assists in 13 La Liga starts and is his side’s most effective attacking outlet.
His parent club PSG will be delighted with his progress so far, but Guedes himself will be focused on securing Champions League football for his adopted team.
Is it already all over for Malaga?
It will be very difficult for Malaga to overturn the seven point gap between themselves and the safety of 17th-position. There are, however, signs that survival is not an impossible task. Since the arrival of Jose Gonzalez, Malaga have looked far more competitive. They may have failed to win in their last eight, yet only one of those matches has been lost by more than a one-goal margin.
Consecutive draws against Eibar and Girona appeared to build confidence and Malaga look far more organised than they did in the early part of the season. Against Atletico Madrid last week they were the better side for the majority of the game. If they can continue to play with their current focus then they will start to pick up points.
Can Valencia rediscover their focus?
After an extraordinary first half of the season, Valencia are in real danger of throwing away a great position in the league. There is no shame in losing over two legs to this current Barcelona outfit, yet it has to potential to come as a real phycological blow to a Valencia team who were beginning to see themselves as back amongst Spain’s elite.
Since their 2-1 loss to relegation threatened Las Palmas in mid-January, Valencia have looked a different side. Los Che saw two of their players sent off in that fixture and they appeared shaken in their subsequent 1-4 loss to Real Madrid.
Last week’s performance against Levante contained flashes of their early season flair. If they can return to that level of football then their place in next season’s Champions League will not come under threat.
Prediction: Malaga 0-1 Valencia
Malaga have looked defensively well-organised in recent weeks and Valencia may find them hard to break down initially. The longer the game stays level, the more doubts will begin to creep into this Valencia side.
Ultimately, Los Che appeared to make a spectacular return to form last week and should have the attacking nous to open up Malaga on Saturday night.
Can Malaga end their losing run?
Let us know in the comments section below…