Prediction and Preview La Liga: Malaga vs Atletico Madrid Apr 11, 2015

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Malaga and Atletico Madrid continue their respective bids to reach the two European club competitions when they meet at the Estadio La Rosaleda on Saturday.

For Atletico, the aim will be to move another step closer to Champions League qualification, while Malaga are looking to keep their Europa League hopes alive.

Malaga Luis Alberto of Malaga CF celebrates with Sergio Sanchez after scoring against Athletic Club Bilbao at La Rosaleda Stadium on August 23, 2014

A disappointing month for Malaga means that their Europa League hopes currently hang by a thread, and Javi Gracia could be eight points behind sixth-placed Villarreal before the weekend begins.

Defeats to Rayo Vallecano and Eibar either side of a draw with Real Sociedad have dealt a blow to their top-six bid, and with eight games remaining this season, the pressure is on the Andalusians to gain some momentum over the next few weeks.

Meeting the defending champions could have perhaps come at a better time, but Atletico are not the same side as last season, and the home supporters will not accept another below-par performance.

A trip to Real Madrid follows next weekend, and displays in the next two games could decide whether Malaga are still in the hunt for a place in Europe, but they may need to produce at least one shock to stay in the race.

Goals have often been the problem for Malaga, and the spotlight is on the likes of Juanmi, who will need to improve on his tally of seven goals this season to hand the team a boost in the final weeks of the season.

Malaga may have to rely on a slip-up from Villarreal to clinch a top-six spot, but a win over the champions could be a turning point in a campaign which has faltered recently.

Defending champions Atletico watched their hopes of back-to-back titles fade earlier in the campaign, but the season is far from over for Diego Simeone's side, who are locked in a battle to return to the Champions League once again.

Clinching third place is the target for Atletico, and as the pressure from Valencia and Sevilla continues to be turned up, Simeone will be desperate to continue their recent run of important results.

A 2-0 victory over Real Sociedad on Tuesday night made it three successive La Liga victories for Simeone's men and stretched their unbeaten league run to seven matches at a crucial stage of the season.

After triumphing in the title race and reaching the final of the Champions League last year, a third-placed finish may be underwhelming to some, but with Simeone tied down to a new contract, the future remains bright for a side packed with talent as they bid to stay in touch with Barcelona and Real Madrid.

Antoine Griezmann managed to end a run of four games without a goal by scoring in back-to-back victories over the last week, and it could be the performances of the Frenchman, who has quickly become a key man for the side, which makes the difference over the final eight games.

Atletico supporters will be forgiven for looking ahead to Tuesday, when they will host Real in the first leg of a mouth-watering Champions League quarter-final tie, but a slip-up this weekend will not be tolerated by Simeone and could have a big impact on confidence ahead of the meeting with their fierce rivals.

Fernando Torres has been a thorn in the side of Real Madrid already this season, and the striker could start on the bench against Malaga should Simeone have big plans for him in the Champions League next week.

That could hand an opportunity to Raul Jimenez in attack, but Simeone is likely to resist making major changes to his side as he looks to juggle both competitions.

Gabi may be given a start in midfield, with either Mario Suarez and Tiago likely to drop out of the side after both played 90 minutes against Sociedad.

Malaga boss Gracia is almost certain to react to the Eibar defeat by making changes to his team, and Sergi Darder and Samu are among the players pushing for a start.

Malaga possible starting lineup:
Kameni, Boka, Weligton, Rosales, Angeleri, Tissone, Darder, Samu, Juanpi, Juanmi, Guerra

Atletico Madrid possible starting lineup:
Oblak, Siqueira, Miranda, Gimenez, Gamez, Tiago, Gabi, Koke, Turan, Griezmann, Jimenez

Tag : La Liga
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