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Aug 21, 2012

Malaga ready for Panathinaikos test

Malaga defender Martin Demichelis believes his side can show they have put a difficult summer behind them by winning Wednesday's Champions League play-off first leg at home to Panathinaikos.

Malaga fans and players spent the summer talking more about finances than football as stars including Santi Cazorla were sold amid mounting financial problems.

But former Bayern Munich defender Demichelis said the opening day 1-0 La Liga win at Celta Vigo showed the players had not been distracted, adding: "We are coming from a win in Vigo, we are playing at home and, for days now, we have not been talking about non-football matters.

"I am not interested in who are favourites for the game, I am interested in how we are feeling inside the squad. Football is beautiful - you just need to go out and play."

While the Champions League is a new experience for Malaga, Demichelis, 31, said the play-off game should hold no fears for his side, adding: "Important players have gone, but we have a squad ready to battle.

"The players here are ready. The motivation is huge - for the institution, the squad, the whole city. We know that we are representing all that, and we hope we can do it as best we can."

Malaga forward Fabrice Olinga, 16, became La Liga's youngest-ever goalscorer with the winner at Celta on Saturday and will be included in the squad for Wednesday's game.

Demichelis said the teenager could rely on support from his older team-mates, explaining: "Sixteen years is very young to have so much responsibility. He is very shy. We'll support him and give him confidence so he feels secure. But it is not just about him - we need everyone."

Malaga's preparations for the second leg, the biggest game in their history, have been complicated by a La Liga schedule that sees them face Real Mallorca at 11pm on Saturday and then fly to Athens soon afterwards for the second leg on Tuesday.

Boquerones coach Manuel Pellegrini said the timing showed a lack for respect for traditionally smaller clubs like Malaga from Spain's footballing authorities.

"With this strange TV scheduling, we must play on Saturday at 11pm and on Tuesday we must play in Greece," Pellegrini said.

"That is going to be difficult, but we will see how we get on. It has not been considered that we are representing Spain in the competition. It should be organised so we can do that as well as possible. We will see if Barcelona or Madrid are given the same treatment as Malaga."

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