With both sides having pressing matters to attend to in the league, reaching the quarterfinals of the Champions League is merely a bonus, especially for Malaga, who no on expected to be here at this stage, hoping the slim lead Porto have from the first leg won’t be enough.
Malaga couldn’t be getting to this match in worse form. Since beating Bilbao 1-0 on February 16, they haven’t won a single match, losing at Porto and Betis, while drawing their matches against Atletico Madrid and Valladolid. Their hold on the fourth place in Spain is slipping after such an impressive start to the season, as the short squad and lack of depth is starting to show for a team that doesn’t have much to sell behind their starting 11.
And still, simply playing their regular football will be a change after being completely held back in the first leg at Porto, managing only two shots at goal, none of them on target. Important players such as Julio Baptista and Eliseu won’t be playing, which means young Lucas Piazon might get a chance to start and show that he isn’t just a wonderkid without much of a future in the big leagues. All eyes, however, will be directed at Isco – if the biggest young Spanish talent at the moment can’t strap his teammates to his shoulders and lead on, there isn’t much hope of a multi-goal festival.
And then there’s Porto, a team that should have scored more than just one goal at the Dragao. They have hardly conceded this season in the Champions League, tied for the best defense in the competition among the remaining teams, but do have a severe problems with away form, not winning one in the knockout stage since May 2004, losing or drawing the following six. All the attacking power of Jackson, Rodriguez and Varela will be at hand, but the importance of holding the team together and keeping Malaga at bay will be on Joao Moutinho and Lucho Gonzalez in the middle of the park.
Prediction – Malaga players are falling off their feet in their dual competition burdens this season, and the lack of depth this squad shows is hurting at every level. Porto are a very tough nut to crack, even on away matches, and should come up with the necessary result to reach the quarterfinals.