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Oct 24, 2012

Pellegrini staying calm ahead of Milan test

Manuel Pellegrini says surprise Champions League Group C leaders Malaga are comfortable with being considered favourites when they host underperforming AC Milan at La Rosaleda on Wednesday night.

Despite this being Malaga's first-ever Champions League campaign, and the financial turmoil that saw them sell key players including Santi Cazorla last summer, Milan arrive as unexpected underdogs given their own well-publicised struggles this season.

Malaga's Chilean coach said that if his side showed the same mental commitment and individual quality as in recent home wins over Zenit St Petersburg in Europe and Real Valladolid in La Liga, the result would look after itself.

"We will play the same way we did against Zenit and Valladolid, trying to play our football," Pellegrini said.

"In all games, the mental part is fundamental. All clubs must have high levels of concentration and intensity to compete at this level. Then there is the individual element, which can decide a game. We have players like Joaquin and Isco who can make the difference."

Although Milan have lost their last two Serie A games, Pellegrini said he was more worried about the European form that saw them win 3-2 in St Petersburg last time out.

"Milan may not be having a good season in the Italian league, but in the Champions League they have four points from six and will be a tough opponent," he said.

"They are going through an important cycle of change, with many different players from last season. We must worry about ourselves, and reaching a high level to beat them."

The city of Malaga is buzzing for the game, which is a sellout, with even the club's rarely-seen Qatari-owner Abdullah bin Nasser Al-Thani flying in to attend.

The team's attacker Joaquin said he was looking forward to playing what is the biggest match in the Andalucian club's history.

"We can see the euphoria of the fans," Joaquin said. "We know how momentous the game against Milan is - it is the most important in the history of this club.

"Given this atmosphere, we need to make sure we play with the commitment and the attitude of our last games. We must try to play our own style. That is the only way to push forward into the game and present a victory to our fans."

Three points would all but guarantee qualification for the knock-out stages after Christmas, according to Joaquin.

"If we are able to win tomorrow, we will be able to touch the last 16... we would make a really important step forward," he said.

"We have to do our jobs well, knowing that we must front up and that we are going to suffer. Hopefully we can enjoy ourselves, and our fans can too. For this, we will have to run more than them, and commit less errors."

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