Tonight sees the UEFA Champions League quarter-final meeting of Málaga CF and FC Porto at the Estádio do Dragão (literally dragon stadium) in Porto. Coming from all over Andalucía, ‘malaguistas’ are gearing up for what promises to be an entertaining game of football and indeed the most historic in the club’s history.
Around 3,000 fans will take their place in the Portuguese capital’s stadium and will lend every inch of their voices to cheer on their team.
Never before has a team from Andalucía reached the last 16 of the competition, and now that they are here, the men from the south of Spain are aiming to go that one bit further. Málaga are one of only four teams to have remained unbeaten throughout the entire group stage of the competition and were arguably the most impressive side of the group phase along with Borussia Dortmund.
Yesterday, recently crowned Golden Boy and team playmaker Isco, discussed the significance of the tie for the club. Speaking to Spanish sports newspaper AS; the 20 year claimed that tonight’s game was, ‘the most important game in the Málaga’s history’.
He went on to play down the impact of the team’s eye-catching performances against 7 times European champions AC Milan and reiterate that all focus will be on tonight’s match-up against Porto.
Porto however, are a formidable outfit with a wealth of European experience and carry into the tie with them, a rich vein of form that sees them sit top of the Portuguese League. The two time European champions are favourites to progress and will provide a stern challenge for the Andalusians.
Yet despite being touted as underdogs, Coach Manuel Pellegirini is cutely aware of the task they face; “Few people expected us to get here, so these are the sort of games our fans should relish. We believed that we could make it this far when we set out and now we’re up against Porto, one of the best teams in Portugal.”
“We will not set out to defend. It should be a fantastic attacking game and hopefully we can put on a real show. The Chilean also pointed out, “A lot can happen over the course of 180 minutes. Porto are a good team, but we have already proved that we can compete at this level”.
He then went on to highlight the importance of the second leg and his belief that the outcome of the tie will be decided in Málaga’s La Rosaleda stadium.
With full-back Jesús Gámez’s participation in doubt, Pellegrini will no doubt seek to use all his available firepower: Isco, Joaquín, Toulalan, Baptista… as they attempt to tame the legendary ‘dragon’.