Two of the most active clubs in the January transfer window meet together this weekend in an Andalucian derby at the Estadio Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán between Sevilla and Málaga. Málaga and new owner Sheikh Abdullah Al Thani scoured the world in January for bright, young talents and seasoned veterans (or washed-up former stars depending on personal opinion) to augment a team fighting relegation, and the early returns have not provided the results they expected.
Martín Demichelis, Júlio Baptista, and Enzo Maresca would have been near the top of many European clubs’ lists four or five years ago, but as they reach their thirties, Málaga is trying to resurrect their fading light as the three want to prove that they are still capable of consistently playing at a high level.
While €4.5 million Boca Juniors winger Diego Buonanotte will join in the summer, Ignacio Camacho and Sergio Asenjo were immediately drafted into the starting eleven for trainer Manuel Pellegrini, and Camacho and Asenjo both want to show that Atlético Madrid made a mistake in showing little faith for them.
Despite the obvious motivation for all of these players to perform well not just for themselves but for the team, it has not fully translated on the pitch, as they have lost four of their five January matches in La Liga, including a heartbreaking 4-3 loss at the Mestalla against Valencia and a crucial late loser against fellow relegation fighters Real Zaragoza.
Málaga has lost seven of their last eight away matches in the league, and with those around Málaga at the bottom of the table helping themselves with surprising wins and important draw points, los boquerones cannot afford to stay on this losing slide if they want to stay in La Liga. Sheikh Al Thani has extensive plans for Málaga in the summer in the transfer market, but all of those designs and ambitions will be thrown out of the window if they fall to the Segunda División.
Whereas Málaga has suffered a downward trend, Sevilla is on their way back up, as they have only lost one of their last five league matches after losing five straight matches prior. Now only five points out of a Europa league spot and eleven points out of an improbable Champions League berth, los nervionenses are riding the hot wave at the perfect time.
They bolstered their midfield with two shrewd signings in January, €3 million defensive midfielder Gary Medel and €1.5 million playmaker Ivan Rakitic, and as Frédéric Kanouté and Luís Fabiano look for their next lucrative contract with Sevilla or with someone else, Sevilla has extra motivation to put their full effort into claiming a top-four finish, a feat that seemed impossible a month ago.
Sevilla bowed out meekly to Real Madrid in the second leg of the Copa del Rey semifinal on Wednesday, but with key league matches and the knockout phase of the UEFA Europa League on the horizon, they can put their disappointing loss behind them and look forward to a hectic final four months. Renato will miss out against Málaga with an ankle injury, but trainer Gregorio Manzano will the vast majority of his squad available, and with the rumor looming that Joaquín Caparrós might return to Sevilla if Manzano does not deliver, the Sevilla manager also has extra motivation to get the results as quickly as possible.
In some other matches this weekend, FC Barcelona will attempt to break the legendary Real Madrid 1960-61 team’s record of consecutive La Liga wins at 16 against Atlético Madrid, the team that has frustrated the blaugrana more than any other Spanish team in the past few years, Real Madrid continues to pick up the pieces of their shattered confidence at home against Real Sociedad, and Giovani dos Santos, the former Barcelona B starlet, will make his debut for Racing de Santander as they face Real Zaragoza in a relegation six-pointer.
The times listed are Eastern Standard Time (EST) and include the pregame pleasantries, although sometimes the matches on the DirecTV La Liga specific channels may not go to match coverage until right before kickoff.
Almería vs Espanyol – 11:45 AM on DirecTV channel 477 (477-1 for HD)
Osasuna vs. Mallorca – 11:45 AM on DirecTV channel 478 (478-1 for HD)
Athletic Club vs. Sporting Gijón – 11:45 AM on DirecTV channel 479 (479-1 for HD)
Getafe vs. Deportivo La Coruña – 11:45 AM on ESPN Deportes/ESPN3
Villarreal vs. Levante – 1:55 PM on Gol TV HD
FC Barcelona vs. Atlético Madrid – 3:55 PM on Gol TV HD
Sevilla vs. Málaga – 10:55 AM on ESPN Deportes/ESPN3
Real Madrid vs. Real Sociedad – 12:55 PM on ESPN Deportes/ESPN3
Valencia vs. Hércules – 2:55 PM on Gol TV HD
Unfortunately, the Real Zaragoza – Racing de Santander match at La Romareda will not be shown on US TV.