PORTO and Malaga have both run into top form at the best time as they prepare for their Champions League last-16 first leg tie at the Dragao Stadium tonight.
The Portuguese champions, who have won the European competition twice, most recently in 2004 under a certain Jose Mourinho, are unbeaten in 19 league matches and go into the game as favourites, not least because of the exploits of their Colombian attackers Jackson Martinez and James Rodriguez.
Coach Vitor Pereira was bullish about his side's prospects at home. "We will be up to the demands of a game of this level against Malaga. Porto are a team used to winning and react to any adversity," he said.
His confidence may stem from the fact this is Malaga's debut season in the Champions League and financial problems have destabilised the club since they were bought by Qatari owners in 2010.
Things are rosier on the grass for Malaga. They are unbeaten in the Champions League and are fourth in La Liga. The architect of this fine run is experienced coach Manuel Pellegrini, who took Villarreal to the semi-finals in 2006, and his side defeated Athletic Bilbao 1-0 at the weekend.
"We have a difficult game in Portugal," Pellegrini said, "but it is always good to go into a match having won the last game."
Argentine forward Javier Saviola scored the winner, but it was goalkeeper Willy Caballero who made sure of the points with some outstanding saves.
The Spanish side are on course for a return to Europe through the league, but have been hit by a future UEFA ban from European competition because of their problems, which have led to delayed payments to players and creditors.
Malaga have appealed against the decision to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).
Porto v Malaga,
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