Malaga bullish ahead of Milan trip
Malaga are confident of continuing their dreamlike debut Champions League season with a win over AC Milan at San Siro on Tuesday evening to seal a place in the second round.
Malaga have made a superb start to life in the competition, and currently sit top of Group C with three wins from their opening three games, including a 1-0 victory over seven-time European champions Milan at La Rosaleda last month.
Boquerones coach Manuel Pellegrini told reporters at Monday's pre-game press conference that his side would not be overawed by taking on such illustrious opponents on their own turf.
"Milan have not been gifted their tradition. They have earned it with their wins and their trophies," Pellegrini said. "Malaga have less history, but history does not play."
Malaga, who could welcome Jeremy Toulalan back from injury, know that a draw would keep them in control of the group. Pellegrini said, however, that they would look to win the game and seal a place in the knockout stages with two games remaining.
"If a team goes out to draw, they lose," he said. "I have no doubt about that. Anyway, this team is not made to play the percentages. We will go out to win the three points."
Malaga playmaker Isco, 20, one of the stars of the group stages so far with two goals in his three appearances, is thrilled to be able to play at the San Siro and is confident the team will not be overawed.
"It is clear that historically the biggest opponent is Milan," Isco said. "For any player to play in San Siro is a dream. We hope to be at the level needed, to play well and to qualify."
Milan have had a disappointing start to the season, but should be buoyed by Saturday's 5-1 win over Chievo in Serie A. Pellegrini said that the Rossoneri would still be under pressure to improve their European performances.
"It is difficult to analyse Milan at the moment," he said. "That win will have lifted some of the pressure on them, but these are two different competitions. There is more pressure on them."
Further motivation for Malaga is the extra prize money on offer for each point gained in the Champions League group stages, although this is currently embargoed by UEFA as a result of the financial issues at the club.
After it emerged last week that Malaga's Qatari owners had again broken a promise to pay back wages owed, the team suffered their first home loss of the season as they were beaten 2-1 by Rayo Vallecano on Saturday. Pellegrini said there was no basis for anyone to draw a connection between the two events.
"The team is angry for the defeat," Pellegrini said. "It is important to analyse that, nothing else, and not any absurd comment in some part of the media."