Over the last couple of seasons, the matches between the two teams of Malaga and Barcelona might have been considered somewhat of a top-of-the-table clash, but no more, as the millions invested in the Malaga projected have stopped coming, while Barca have remained exactly in the same place they’ve been for the last five years.
The big news going into this match is Lionel Messi not playing, with Barcelona playing it extra careful regarding his injury. This means that Neymar has an excellent chance of picking up his first start for the club, although so far he’s been used as a sub to come in on the left wing, with Cesc Fabregas looking like the more likely player to get to play instead of Messi in the center of the attack.
Whatever he front lineup will look like (And it’ll probably be Neymar-Fabregas-Alexis), it’s not hard to think that it won’t matter by that much. Not with Xavi and Iniesta playing, and Barcelona’s record against Malaga, home & away. They’ve won 11 of the last 12 matches between the two sides, including their last six visits to La Rosaleda. Last season, Barcelona beat them 3-1 in the league there, and then again, two weeks later, in the Copa Del Rey, with a 4-2 second leg away win.
It’s hard to expect anything from Malaga. They’ve hardly made any noteworthy signings this offseason, while losing Isco, Joaquin, Julio Baptista, Toulalan and Demichelis. Their attack, which includes Roque Santa Cruz, Fabrice Olinga, Duda and Pedro Morales didn’t look very good in their opening loss to Valencia, and it doesn’t seem like they have too much to offer against the La Liga champions as well.
Predictions – The rough pitch might give Barcelona some problems early on, but it’s hard to think that Malaga don’t have the kind of confidence and swagger, not to mention quality, that they’ve had in recent years, and even then it didn’t help them against Barcelona. Unless the absence of Messi is going to have some disastrous repercussions, and it probably won’t, Barcelona shouldn’t have a problem coming up with another win.