The last game in round eighteen of La Liga goes between Malaga and Espanyol in the Rosaleda. Both teams are disappointing so far, but hope to start the new year with a victory.
Malaga will be ready in 2018, because with only eleven points from seventeen rounds of play, the Andalusians must fear relegation. The backlog in the safe seventeenth place is only four points, but the fact is that the blue-whites since their promotion in 1999 have never been so bad at this stage of the season. Remarkably, trainer Michel apparently still has the trust of the board. ‘I’m sure that Michel and the players will pull out of a different kiosk in 2018,’ says chairman Abdullah Al Thani.
I do not know what that trust is based on. Michel already welcomed some reinforcements this winter, although I wonder if acquisitions like Alberto Bueno and Manuel Iturra can actually lift the team to a higher level. The biggest problem is the lack of scoring ability, because thirteen goals in seventeen rounds is not exactly something to write home about. On average, the blues need more than fifteen goal attempts to reach a goal, which is the highest average in La Liga. Summer purchase Borja Baston is basically the man who has to take care of the goals, but he has not been able to live up to expectations. Malaga hopes therefore Sandro Ramirez (Everton) back to the Rosaleda, but the Andalusians have plenty of competition. The defense could also use a quality impulse with as many as 31 counter-hits.
Like his colleague Michel, Espanyol coach Quique Sanchez Flores is also under pressure. The Catalans are eager to jump to the left-hand row and Chairman Chen Yangsheng even dreamed aloud of the Champions League hymn at the RCDE Stadium. With 15th place, however, Los Pericos are still light years away from participating in the European champions ball.
Espanyol therefore has a season to quickly forget. It is thanks to the scoring drive of Gerard Moreno that the team is not worse off. With seven league goals, the attacker alone is responsible for half of the goals production of the blue whites. Outside Moreno there is no one with real attacking threat. Defensively, however, the Catalans are their male. In particular goalkeeper Pau Lopez has a strong season, although he does not seem to be willing to extend his expiring contract. For the time being, Sanchez Flores will still use the closing station, but it would be possible that if it soon comes to an agreement, he will end up on the second plan. Lopez is, however, together with Moreno this season by far the best player in the team of Sanchez Flores.
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