Season preview: Malaga

Season preview: Malaga
© AP Photos
Sports Mole discusses whether, despite their troubles, Malaga can improve on last season's top-six finish in the new La Liga season.

Despite finishing sixth in La Liga last season, Malaga did not qualify for the Europa League with their ban from European competition still standing.

They have lost Manuel Pellegrini this summer, with the Chilean, who took charge at Manchester City, being replaced by former Real Madrid boss Bernd Schuster at the helm.

Here, Sports Mole discusses whether, despite their troubles, Malaga can improve on last season's finish in the new campaign.

In: Vitorino Antunes (Pacos Ferreira), Bobley Anderson (Wydad), Flavio Ferreira (Coimbra), Roberto Chen (San Francisco), Bartlomiej Pawlowski (Widzew Lodz – Loan), Marcos Angeleri (Estudiantes), Fernando Tissone (Sampdoria), Roque Santa Cruz (Manchester City)

Out: Isco (Manchester City), Jeremy Toulalan (Monaco), Joaquin (Fiorentina), Javier Saviola (Olympiacos), Martin Demichelis (Atletico Madrid), Edinho (Braga), Manuel Iturra (Granada), Julio Baptista (Cruzeiro), Ruben (Rayo Vallecano)

Last season: Sixth

Manager: Bernd Schuster

Three key players:

Malaga's Eliseu celebrates scoring against Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League clash on April 9, 2013© AP Photos
Eliseu Pereira: As one of the senior members of the side, Eliseu will certainly be expected to take on more responsibility in the new campaign. When the Portuguese arrived from Lazio in 2010, he had been expected to operate in a wide left position. While that has been the case for large periods of his stay, the 29-year-old was asked to operate at left-back last season. Having made just short of 100 league appearances for Malaga, he is undoubtedly one of the more experienced players in the camp. Schuster will not rely on Eliseu for goals or indeed assists in the new campaign, but he will be asked to provide an outlet in both attack and defence on the left-hand side.

Malaga's Roque Santa Cruz in action on October 24, 2012© PA Photos
Roque Santa Cruz: Malaga have lost a wealth of attacking talent this summer in the shape of Isco, Joaquin and Javier Saviola, while Lucas Piazon has returned to Chelsea. Santa Cruz spent last season on loan with the Spanish outfit, but he made that move permanent after his Manchester City contract expired in the summer. Despite appearing mainly as a substitute last season, the 31-year-old found the back of the net on eight occasions in the league, while he scored 12 in total. A new striker is expected to arrive at Malaga before the end of the August window, but there is no question that Santa Cruz will be heavily relied upon for goals in the new campaign.

Malaga's Ignacio Camacho in action on October 24, 2012© PA Photos
Ignacio Camacho: Malaga may have had their midfield weakened this summer, but in Camacho, they still possess one of the best of his kind in La Liga. Despite being just 23 years of age, Camacho has already made just short of 100 appearances in the top flight of Spanish football, 30 of which came for Atletico Madrid, who he departed to join Malaga in 2011. Camacho appeared just 13 times in the 2011-2012 campaign, but it proved to be a breakthrough season last term as he played in all but five of their league matches. The midfielder will also hope that a strong campaign could force him into the Spain thinking with the World Cup to come next summer.

First game: Valencia (A) Aug 17

Sports Mole says: To suggest that it has been a difficult couple of years for Malaga would be putting it lightly. They were the favourites to secure fourth position in the table for large parts of last season, although they were aware that a European ban would prevent them from playing Champions League football regardless of their final position. Having lost a wealth of talent this summer, it is difficult to imagine that they will challenge for a place in the top four this time around, unless big investment is made over the next couple of weeks. It appears that youth players will be relied upon in what is expected to be a transitional season for the club, but the supporters will still be hopeful of a top-half finish.

Predicted finish: Ninth

Malaga's Roque Santa Cruz in action on October 24, 2012
Read Next:
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