Pitchside Europe

European match of the weekend: Pellegrini and Mourinho lock horns

Malaga against Real Madrid is fourth against third in La Liga on Saturday but brings together one of the most well publicised managerial rivalries in football.

Jose Mourinho was the figure who succeeded Manuel Pellegrini as Real manager in May 2010 after the Malaga coach had led Real to second place behind Pep Guardiola's Barcelona in La Liga with a record haul of 96 points.

Mourinho has not been slow to taunt Pellegrini about his period of failure at the Bernabeu, commenting that "second place is just the first loser" and suggesting a move to Malaga would have been beneath him.

"I have no relationship with him," said Pellegrini on Friday. "It's an important match for me because we are five points behind Madrid.

"The individual aspect has no significance. I am interested in the team, the global situation and getting three points."

Pellegrini's Malaga have suffered some fearful beatings by Real, losing 7-0 in his first match at his old club followed by a 4-0 loss at home.

But Santi Cazorla's equaliser from a late free-kick in a 1-1 draw in March finally enabled Pellegrini to taste something tangible against Real. He would not argue with a similar outcome this weekend. And he would appear to have a fighting chance.

Real already seem lost in their bid to defend the Spanish title with Barcelona holding a 13-point lead over them in the death throes of 2012.

But Malaga know the significance of three points. A win for the home side would see Malaga head for the Christmas break only two points behind Real in the standings with a match against Porto to relish in the last 16 of the Champions League in February.

They will not sample such encounters next season with UEFA confirming that Malaga had been banned from future European competition for at least a season because of unpaid bills.

Malaga are quite a force at home having enjoyed wins over AC Milan, Zenit St Petersburg and Valencia at La Rosaleda this season.

Real are far from formidable away from home in Spain. They have already lost three matches, and Malaga could offer them plenty of difficult moments.

Malaga have the best defensive record in La Liga having shipped only 10 goals this season. The match may hinge on the way Manuel Iturra and Iganacio Camacho handle the threat of Cristiano Ronaldo.

Gonzalo Higuain is missing for the visitors with an injury while Karim Benzema is doubtful with a foot injury.

More than anything, Pellegrini may well salivate over three points from his personal duel with Mourinho.

EUROPEAN LEAGUES - LIVE MATCHES THIS WEEKEND

Friday

Valencia v Getafe - 19:00
Cagliari v Juventus - 19:45
Atletico Madrid v Celta Vigo - 21:00

Saturday

Inter Milan v Genoa - 11:30
Real Valladolid v Barcelona - 17:00
Malaga v Real Madrid - 19:00
Roma v Milan - 19:45