Malaga eyes more miracles in Champions League

Madrid, Feb 18 (IANS) Spanish Primera Liga football club Malaga are seeking more miracles in the Champions League, warming up for the last 16 tie with Porto Tuesday night.

Malaga travel to Portugal in fine form after a 1-0 home win against Athletic Club Bilbao Saturday evening, a game in which coach Manuel Pellegrini was able to rest some of his key players, such as Martin Demichelis, Joaquin Sanchez and Jeremy Toulalan, reports Xinhua.

Malaga's achievements this season have been nothing short of heroic: following on from their fourth place finish at the end of last season, the club's plans for the summer were hit by economic problems when it appeared owner, Sheikh Abdullah Al Thani was looking to sell.

Al Thani remains as the owner of the club, but has massively reduced his investment, meaning Malaga were forced to sell key players such as Spain international, Santi Cazorla and striker, Solomon Rondon over the summer, while left back Nacho Monreal also left during this January's transfer window.

With money at a premium, Pellegrini was forced to make do with last minute signings such as former Barcelona and Benfica forward, Javier Saviola and Paraguayan international, Roque Santa Cruz, who arrived on loan from Manchester City just before the start of the season.

Many expected Malaga to crash out of Europe at the first hurdle, but the makeshift team made short work of Panathinaikos in the qualifying round and then finished top of a complicated group containing AC Milan, Anderlecht and Zenit St. Petersburg, while maintaining a challenge in the Primera Liga.

This success came despite another blow to morale when UEFA placed an embargo on the club and announced that as a result of unpaid debts, Malaga will not be able to compete in Europe next season.

Pellegrini has somehow managed to keep morale high despite this setback and continued delays in payments of his players' wages.

Given the economic situation at the club it is obvious that the further Malaga can go into the competition, the more money they will earn and better the chance of everyone being paid, but there is little doubt that many from the current squad will be leaving at the end of the season, while Pellegrini is being spoken of as a possible signing for English Premier League giants, Manchester City and Chelsea.

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