Toulalan relishing Malaga run
Malaga may be in debt and facing a European ban but Jeremy Toulalan says the black clouds on the horizon will not spoil the Spanish club's Champions League quarter-final first leg with Borussia Dortmund on Wednesday.
The La Liga club's ruinous financial state means they will be barred from any European competition they qualify for in the next four seasons. Currently in fifth in the Spanish top flight - just a point behind fourth-placed Real Sociedad - Manuel Pellegrini's side are well-placed to test UEFA's resolve to enact the ban, but former Lyon midfielder Toulalan, 29, told Ouest France the squad and its fans are determined to enjoy the present.
"We're experiencing something exceptional in qualifying for the quarter-finals. Perhaps the emotions are even stronger than at Lyon as they've never done it before here. For the Andalucians, it's incredible whereas at Lyon it was normal."
The Spanish club's nine-game unbeaten record at home in European competition will be sorely tested by Dortmund, who have been mightily impressive en route to the last eight. If the potent counter-attacking threat of the German champions is to be muzzled, Toulalan will need to maximise his tireless industry, a quality which has already won him a place in hearts of his club's supporters.
"There have been injuries, and I haven't played as well this season, far from it. But people are extraordinary with me, whereas players like Isco and Joaquin are ten times more talented than me."
Though his displays have not been enough to earn him a recall to the French national side, for whom he has not featured since the 2010 World Cup, Toulalan has found himself watched enviously by other clubs. Atletico Madrid are most frequently linked, but the quietly-spoken ex-Nantes man told Lyon-based newspaper Le Progres: "It's tough to find someone happier than I am here. I feel really good, and the club haven't talked about a possible departure for the moment. If it were to happen, we'd talk it over calmly."
Dortmund, who have won only one of their nine previous European Cup games on Spanish soil, arrived in Malaga with a squad of 22 players, though there remain fitness doubts over a few.
Left-back Marcel Schmelzer suffered a broken nose at the weekend. A few days earlier, while with the Poland team, Jakub Blaszyczkowski suffered a groin strain. Both players said they would only know after the final training session if they are able to play on Wednesday. Late on Tuesday both players finished the full training session and will be available in Dortmund's first Champions League quarter final since 1998.
Midfielder Sven Bender, however, remains a doubt after suffering a bruised foot at the weekend. "He is in great pain. The question is if he can tolerate it," manager Jurgen Klopp said on Tuesday. With Dortmund skipper Sebastian Kehl back in the squad following a rib injury the Germany international Bender could be rested.
Whoever will start for Dortmund will be prepared for an "experienced team with strong defensive and offensive systems", as Klopp described the Spanish team during the press-conference. The Dortmund coach believed the tie was "wide open" and said the team was looking forward to playing Malaga.
"We've played well in this season's Champions League and we want to produce more good performances," he said. "We can't say we will be disappointed if Malaga beat us - the name of the opposition doesn't matter. Malaga are a very good side and Manuel Pellegrini is an excellent coach."
Despite Malaga's showing in Champions League being a one-off for now with the UEFA suspension looming over them, Dortmund general manager Michael Zorc believed that the club, who have not lost a home game in Europe, are not be taken lightly. "Everyone expects us to go through," he said. "There lies the danger. It's not going to be easy as the players will use the Champions League as a platform to showcase their talents."