A lot of the talk leading up to the match has been about comments made by Málaga coach and former Real Madrid player Míchel over his personal preference for the destination of the title.
Míchel had mentioned a few weeks ago that he would rather see Real finish the season as Champions as opposed to Barça and there soon followed suggestions that Málaga would make it easy for Madrid on the day.
Let’s be serious about this. As a former player with a strong Real Madrid identity, of course Míchel would rather see the title go the Bernabéu than to the Camp Nou; but that doesn’t automatically mean that he’s going to try to influence that in any way.
Despite all the media hype over this, Míchel’s first priority is Málaga. As a coach it’s an insult to his professionalism to suggest that either he or his players will be any less committed against Real tonight than they would be if they were playing anybody else.
If anything it’s likely to be the other way round; and attempting to ensure that by insinuating Málaga might approach the game in a less than committed manner is just another way of subconsciously trying to get their players to try and work that little bit harder.
Nobody’s fooled. It might make a good story or two in the days leading up to the game; but since Real are going to Málaga to win the title everyone involved knows that Madrid will have to have to fight for the points anyway.
Zidane certainly won’t be looking for any favours from Míchel. Irrespective of the Madrid connection in the Málaga side, not every player in their team will necessarily want Real to take the title; and after all, the Málaga players will have their own agenda.
Some will be hoping to impress Míchel enough to win a new contract; others will be hoping just to cement their place in the team, but above all, none of the Málaga players will want to finish on the losing side.
Suggestions of skulduggery are likely to be nothing more than an attempt to put pressure on the referee together with hoping to wind Míchel and the players up enough so that they will try harder in an attempt to prove that they don’t want to hand Real the title. It won’t work.
Málaga’s players aren’t just going to lie down and concede the game as popular media comments suggest. The reason they’ll be trying harder because it’s Real Madrid they’re playing against. It certainly won’t be anything to do with suggestions that they favour Real winning the title over Barça because of Míchel’s former connections with the Bernabéu.
Most of the Málaga players who will face Real Madrid today couldn’t care less who wins the league as long as they’re ok.
The fact is that Málaga’s players will be playing to win for themselves and not to satisfy other people that they are impartial.
Those in the media siding with Barça will be hoping that the reaction from the Málaga club will be for the players to try harder; but what’s new? Everyone tries harder when they’re playing Real Madrid so Málaga aren’t going to be any different in that sense.
It’s blatantly obvious that these are nothing more than mind games and I’m sure that both Míchel and Zidane are taking the comments with a proverbial pinch of salt. To suggest that Málaga will hand Real the title is an affront to the Andalucían club and everyone connected with it.
This will be as tough a fixture as they come but Real are in control of their own destiny. Going into the game tonight as league leaders, Real’s players just need to concentrate on winning; and winning in style.