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High hopes as Malaga kick off European adventure

Spain,Sports, Mon, 17 Sep 2012 IANS

Madrid, Sep 17 (IANS) There will be high expectations in Malaga's La Rosaleda Stadium when the home side makes its Champions League debut Tuesday night.

Malaga, assured their place in the competition by finishing the fourth in Spain last season and beating Panathinaikos in the qualifying round for the competition, reports Xinhua.

The win assured the club's financial short-term future and with the commitment of Malaga's owner, Sheikh Al Thani still in doubt, fans will want to make the most of their European adventure, which kicks off with the visit of Russian side Zenit St. Petersburg.

Despite the off-field problems and the sale of players such as Solomon Rondon, Vincenzo Marecsa, Santi Cazorla and Joris Mathisjen, Malaga have enjoyed a fine start to the domestic season in Spain and are currently unbeaten with 10 points from their opening four matches.

The main problem for coach Manuel Pellegrini could be the lack of depth to his squad, although the arrival of Javier Saviola, who enjoyed a goalscoring debut in the 2-1 win at home to Levante Saturday will give Malaga more options.

Midfielder Isco is the key player for Malaga and as long as he is in form the side will be able to perform despite an injury to veteran midfielder, Jeremy Toulalan, who was replaced by Francisco Portillo and Ignacio Camacho at the weekend.

Pellegrini will make few changes to the side that defeated Levante 3-1, although Jesus Gamez could step in for Sergio Sanchez at right back.

Zenit fly to Spain on the back of a 0-2 home defeat to Terek in which the only positive for the Russians was the debut of former Porto striker, Hulk. The Brazilian will carry the main threat to Malaga and defenders Martin Demichelis and Weligton will have to be at their best to stop him.

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