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Apr 2, 2013

Pellegrini hopes Isco can shine

Malaga coach Manuel Pellegrini has called for Isco to again step up and show his quality in Wednesday's Champions League quarter-final first leg against Borussia Dortmund.

• Cartlidge: Malaga siege mentality
• Uesfeld: Lewandowski legend
• Joaquin: Spain is behind Malaga

The young playmaker has so far scored three goals in six games in his debut European campaign, including the vital opener in Malaga's last-16 second-leg victory against Porto. Such performances have brought senior international recognition for Spain, while a long list of suitors reportedly headed by Chelsea do not seem put off by his €35 million price-tag.

Pellegrini said Isco's displays were even more impressive considering there had up until quite recently been doubts as to whether he had the stature to make it as a senior player.

"He is a player aged just 20," the Chilean said. "Many people believed he was [physically] not up to professional football. He has shown his technical capacity, which is where he stands out. Hopefully that will appear tomorrow."

Dortmund coach Jurgen Klopp also has plenty of individual quality to call upon, Pellegrini said.

"We are up against a great team," he said. "Borussia have five starters for the German national team. [Mario] Gotze, [Marco] Reus, [Robert] Lewandoski, just to give some names, are good players. They are the Bundesliga title holders and unbeaten in the Champions League. [But] they are up against a Malaga side that has only lost one game in this competition."

Pellegrini was speaking to journalists at Tuesday morning's pre-game press conference, before which he had released his squad for the game. Utility man Eliseu has not recovered from a knee problem in time for the game, while on-loan Chelsea attacker Lucas Piazon was surprisingly left out.

The Malaga coach predicted the first leg against the German champions could be a tight tactical affair, as both he and Klopp looked for an advantage.

"We have a game of 180 minutes, 90 of them as the home team," he said. "We must play a balanced game, as we always do. We are not going to take risks with the result. We will go out to play, and limit Dortmund's positive elements. The tie will not be decided tomorrow, that is for sure. "

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