Mired in off-the-field turmoil, Malaga is looking to keep up its promising start to the season that has been spurred on by the surprising form of a 16-year-old youth team player from Cameroon.
Fabrice Olinga became the Spanish league’s youngest ever scorer in the club’s opening-round victory last weekend. Since then, Malaga beat Panathinaikos 2-0 in the first leg of a playoff to be on the verge of its first appearance in the UEFA Champions League.
The surprise start to the season comes after the clubs leading players Santiago Cazorla and Jose Rondon were sold following the Qatari owner refusing to pay players wages.
Olinga is expected to be in the team for Saturday’s league match against Mallorca.
Coach Manuel Pellegrini has not only barred Olinga from speaking to the media but all the employees of the club also.
“He’s going through the best moment of his life, something he never expected,” Pellegrini said on Friday. “You have to remain conscious about his abilities and capacities, and Fabrice is doing everything very well up to now.”
Malaga’s run comes up against an unexpected hurdle this weekend when it kicks off at its Rosaleda Stadium 11pm local time.
“It’s not a normal hour to play football at. Finishing at 1 am keeps a lot of people from coming to the stadium,” the Chilean coach said.
Mallorca will be tough opposition being a team full of confidence having only lost once in their last six matches away to Real Madrid.
The man on fire is Israeli striker Tomer Hemed who has netted the ball three times with in the space of a week.
Meanwhile, defending champion Real Madrid visits Getafe after drawing at home last week with Valencia and losing 3-2 in the first leg of the Spanish Super Cup against Barcelona on Thursday. Barcelona, which opened the season with a 5-1 victory over Real Sociedad, plays at Osasuna on Sunday.
Another match without a victory may see Real push to finalise a deal for Tottenham Hotspur’s Luka Modric, especially with Kaka out of favour after having been left out of the squad against Barcelona.
Barcelona midfielder Alex Song could make his debut in Pamplona after joining from Arsenal and striker David Villa can expect to play after having rested against Madrid.
In other games this weekend, it’s: Real Sociedad vs. Celta Vigo; Real Betis vs. Rayo Vallecano; Espanyol vs. Zaragoza; Granada vs. Sevilla; Valencia vs. Deportivo La Coruna; Valladolid vs. Levante; and Atletico Madrid vs. Athletic Bilbao.