A new La Liga season always brings with it new faces, more excitement, and hopefully more underdogs that can compete with FC Barcelona and Real Madrid. Malaga CF is certainly one of those teams that will have a new look and will be aiming to improve on their 11th place finish of last season.
A few key players have moved on from Malaga CF over the summer, most notably Argentine goalkeeper Willy Caballero. Caballero was Malaga CF’s first choice in goal and a secure presence between the sticks providing important saves all season long. Caballero will be missed by the Malaga hopeful as he heads to Manchester City to meet up with former Malaga CF manager, Manuel Pellegrini. Portuguese winger Eliseu has signed with Benfica. Fiorentina did some business in Malaga and picked up both Mounir El Hamdoui and Oleksandr Iakovenko. Amrabat and Bartłomiej Pawłowski followed by signing with Galatasaray and Widzew Łódź, respectively.
There has also been a managerial change at Malaga. Bernd Schuster’s contract was terminated at the end of the last season after the team’s expectations weren’t met: In steps, Javi Gracia. Gracia, a former player himself in La Liga, is coming off the back of relegation with Osasuna. Gracia’s first official game in charge of Malaga CF will be against Athletic Club Bilbao.
Javi Gracia has already made his presence felt at the club with a few new signings as well, contributing to the new look Malaga CF. One of the most notable being the capture of free-agent Mexico World Cup goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa. Ochoa’s displays for Ligue 1 club AC Ajaccio and Mexico over the summer were enough to convince Gracia that he could be the perfect replacement for Caballero as he looks to make his mark on the team.
In addition to Ochoa, Gracia has also signed a few players for the back line. Ivorian international, Arthur Boka makes his way to Malaga CF from Stuttgart. Boka was a member of the Ivorian team in Brazil as well. Roberto Rosales also joins as free transfer from Twente. The Venezuelan right back brings with him Champions League experience and years in European football. Luis Alberto also joins from Liverpool on loan to reinforce the attack. Gracia has also signed Portuguese youngster Ricardo Horta, winger, from Vitoria Setubal.
A few loanees are returning to the club and they will also feel like new signings to the manager. Roberto Chen, Jose Luis “Recio” Garcia, Bobley Anderson, and Cala all return to the squad looking to show what they have to offer and win a spot in the starting eleven under the new manager.
This is a Malaga team that is in a rebuild phase. Over the past few seasons they have lost their quality players that saw them competing in Champions League and even giving Borussia Dortmund a scare. They have a new manager in Javi Gracia hoping to prove himself after a disappointing last season with Osasuna. Malaga provides a fresh start with a higher quality crop of players and more spending power than he was used to in his managerial career. Gracia has
brought in young players that he feels will suit his style nicely, as well as a few veteran players that bring in experience in the highest level of competition.
So far under Gracia, Malaga has been undefeated this pre-season. They have beaten teams like Newcastle United and West Ham United, as well as the Qatari National Team. Pre-season form is usually nothing to go by, but it shows that the players are adapting to Gracia’s style of play and the results are there. Their next friendly is against Fiorentina on August 10th. Fiorentina provides a tough test and Malaga will want to win and convince their faithful and the doubters that they can indeed fight for European spots this season.
Malaga CF’s season expectations will be to avoid the drop above all, but to also finish as high as possible. They have the quality with the new players and the established players to finish higher than they did last season. All the players will be looking to impress the new manager and that will only help elevate everyone else’s game. Gracia and Malaga CF hope to start the season by taking all three points in the encounter with Athletic Bilbao at La Rosaleda, Malaga CF’s home ground.
Google+: Juan Carlos Ramirez