Madrid: Malaga have used medieval imagery in a promotional video for their Champions League last-16 second leg at home to Porto, seeking inspiration for an historic performance from the Spanish debutantes on Wednesday. Goalkeeper Willy Caballero carries a shield, defender Jesus Gamez the club colours, and forward Julio Baptista hammers out a Malaga crest in a fiery forge, while the strapline challenges fans: "We are ready. Are you?"
The club from the Costa del Sol must overturn a 1-0 scoreline from the first leg in Portugal last month if they are to oust the two-times European champions, and continue their continental adventure into the quarter-finals. "We are at home, in front of our own fans and we have to make the most of it," Malaga's Porto-born midfielder Duda told reporters on Monday.
"The players, the staff and everyone else knows this is the most important game in Malaga's history." It was only five years ago that Malaga were playing in the second division, but promotion in 2008, a takeover by Qatari Sheikh Abdullah Al Thani, and a top-four finish last season have catapulted the club into the big time. However, it has not been a smooth ride.
Doubts over the commitment of the new owners have persisted with the sale of top players, while delayed payments to staff and other clubs has earned them a UEFA ban from future European competition for at least a season. Malaga are contesting the ruling and still lie fourth in La Liga after a 1-1 draw at Valladolid on Saturday.
Experienced Argentine defender Martin Demichelis views further Champions League success as vital for the club's future. "There is a little uncertainty," he said last week. "A top-four finish and progress in the Champions League should help motivate the owners, who still seem a little isolated from it all. It would be a shame if this did not continue.
"In two years we have gone from fighting to avoid relegation, to pursuing important objectives. The people of Malaga don't want this to be a flash in the pan, and neither do we. For Malaga it is a dream come true." Coach Manuel Pellegrini has a near full squad available with Baptista, Eliseu and Francisco Portillo all back after injury.
Porto responded to a disappointing draw at Sporting with a comfortable 2-0 win over Estoril on Friday, when they scored early goals and then entered into energy-saving mode. "We all have the ambition to win the Champions League," Porto playmaker Joao Moutinho told the UEFA website. "Anyone who is at this stage has a desire to go as far as possible, but we're not thinking further than the game against Malaga."
The influential Moutinho, who scored Porto's first-leg winner, missed Porto's last two matches with a thigh strain but is set to return for the trip to Malaga. Porto should be at full strength as bulky French centre back Mangala is also expected to recover from a shoulder injury.
The Portuguese champions have promised to stick to their trademark attacking style. "We are a team able to score anywhere we go and if we do that we will have a good advantage," Porto's Argentine captain Lucho Gonzales told ESPN Argentina radio. "Our style of play is all about attack. We earned a slight advantage and will try and use it." Lucho was in sync with his coach. "We go to Malaga to score, because that can secure the tie," Vitor Pereira said.