Real Madrid v Malaga, Primera Division, January 24, 2010
The winter break came at a bad time for Real Madrid. In the four games before Los Blancos scored 14 goals, in the three they have played in 2010, Manuel Pellegriniâ€™s side have picked up just four points from a possible nine available and scored just two goals.
A 0-0 draw with Osasuna was followed by a 2-0 home win in the snow over Mallorca and then last weekâ€™s 1-0 away defeat at Athletic Bilbao. Real Madrid are now five points behind Barcelona and with the Catalan giants playing on Saturday night against Valladolid, they could be eight points in arrears against relegation strugglers Malaga. (Under 2.5 goals at 15/8, over 1/2.)
In line with Florentino Perezâ€™s Galactico policy at the Bernabeu, the stars travelled to Albania in midweek to play a friendly against Gramozi Erseke which they won 2-1 (11/1 to repeat that score). It is hoped that the goals from Kaka and Karim Benzema will boost morale and Cristiano Ronaldo is also under pressure to perform and score for the first time in 2010.
There will be even more pressure on the shoulders of the most expensive footballer in world football as Gonzalo Higuain is unavailable through injury. Mali midfielder Mahamadou Diarra is though back in Spain following Maliâ€™s exit from the Africa Cup of Nations. (Real are 8/13 to win both halves.)
Malaga are 16th in the Primera Division, just one point off the relegation zone in La Liga. Their position is though a little deceiving as they have not lost in the league since the start of November.
Their 5-1 mauling in the Copa del Rey second leg clash against Getafe last week was a surprise as they have picked up eight points from their last four league games. On loan Manchester City striker Felipe Caicedo will be leading the line after making his debut for the club last season.
They will though be without Apono, a crucial player for Malaga, due to a serious hamstring injury. Portuguese winger Duda is their major threat and Real Madrid will also be eyeing Jesus Gamez, a right back who looks destined for the top.
Midfielder Lassana Diarra commented this week on Barcelonaâ€™s five point lead at the top of the table: â€œFive points are two games, nothing more, in football, things can happen very quickly.” Three points and nothing less will suffice for Real Madrid; expect their perfect home record to stay intact.
101gg predicts: Real Madrid 3 â€“ Malaga 0 (8/1)
Full match odds here.