UEFA Champions League preview: Porto v Malaga
By Football News
Malaga have unveiled another attacking threat ahead of their Champions League trip to Porto as the Spaniards seek to maintain their good form.
Brazilian teenager Lucas Piazon impressed in his first start for Malaga on Saturday, setting up the only goal in his side's 1-0 victory over Athletic Bilbao.
Piazon, who is on loan from Chelsea, did well to hold off two opponents before finding space on the left-hand side of the penalty area and cutting the ball back for Javier Saviola to score.
The 19-year-old forward started instead of Joaquin against Athletic Bilbao and although the latter will be expected to return to the starting XI for Tuesday's Round of 16 first leg in Porto, Piazon will be yet another Malaga attacker the home side will have to keep an eye on.
Malaga's debut Champions League campaign has been a fairytale so far with the club from Spain's south coast yet to taste defeat and scoring 12 goals in their six group fixtures.
Head coach Manuel Pellegrini looks likely to be without his leading Champions League goal-scorer, Eliseu, against Porto after the Portugal international strained the medial collateral ligament in his left knee against Zaragoza on February 3.
But with Isco, Joaquin, Julio Baptista and Saviola likely to start as Malaga's four forwards, as well as Piazon ready to come off the bench, Pellegrini looks to have plenty of options in the front third.
Malaga's win against Athletic Bilbao extends their undefeated run to four games but they have nothing on their opponents on Tuesday as Porto have not lost in 12 matches.
Porto warmed up for the visit of Malaga with a 2-0 away victory over Biera-Mar thanks to a long-range goal from Christian Atsu, while Jackson Martinez hit the back of the net for the 10th time in six matches.
Identifying Martinez as Porto's main attacking threat will be a simple for Pellegrini, however, actually nullifying the Colombian striker is another thing entirely.
Martinez has been a revelation in his first season for Porto with 24 goals in 26 games and Malaga's normally frugal defence will have to be at their best to keep the 185-centimetre 26-year-old quiet.
Malaga are the best defensive outfit in Spain's La Liga this season having conceded just 21 goals in 24 matches but Martinez's complete package of strength, speed and skill will keep the likes of Martin Demichelis, Diego Lugano and Weligton busy in Porto.
A win in Portugal will put Malaga in the box seat to earn a quarter-finals berth in their inaugural Champions League campaign, while Porto are looking to qualify for the last eight for the first time since 2008-09.