Real faces stern test at Malaga

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Updated: December 21, 2012

The wheels have fallen off of Real Madrid’s bus in La Liga play, but the club will attempt to get back on track Saturday when it heads to La Rosaleda to take on Malaga.

Jose Mourinho’s side has dropped 15 points through 16 games this season, one point more than it surrendered all of last term.

The sub par start to the league season has left Madrid in third place, 13 points adrift of first-place Barcelona, which takes on Valladolid at the Jose Zorrilla on Saturday.

It would take a monumental Barcelona collapse for the title race to be switched back on, but Real Madrid must position itself in the event of any kind of slip up from the Catalans.

A road trip to Malaga is not the ideal way for Madrid to begin its climb back to relevance.

Like Real, Malaga has made it to the Round of 16 of the Champions League. In fact, Manuel Pellegrini’s men finished top of their group and in front of AC Milan, which speaks volumes about the quality in the side.

Malaga comes into the weekend in fourth place with 28 points, five points behind Real Madrid.

With Los Boquerones having a healthy dose of Champions League football this year, they will have their sights set on a fourth-place finish to return to the competition next year, and a positive result against Madrid on Saturday would be the perfect way to put that plan in motion.

Also on Saturday, Athletic Bilbao hosts Real Zaragoza at San Mames, Osasuna welcomes Granada to the Estadio El Sadar and Mallorca heads to the Benito Villamarin to take on Real Betis.

On Friday, Atletico Madrid hopes to apply pressure on Barcelona when it faces Celta Vigo at the Vicente Calderon while Valencia hopes to get back into the win column when it hosts Getafe at the Mestalla.

Pressure increased on Sevilla coach Michel and his Deportivo La Coruna counterpart Jose Luis Oltra when their teams were beaten at Real Sociedad and Espanyol respectively in La Liga on Thursday.

Rayo Vallecano cruised to 3-0 defeat of Levante at the Campo de Futbol de Vallecas. Rayo needed three second-half goals to get its second straight win as Nacho, Piti and Franco Vasquez helped the club improve to 25 points, two points behind Levante.

Real Sociedad extended its unbeaten run in La Liga play to seven games with a 2-1 defeat of 10-man Sevilla while Espanyol snapped a six- game winless run with a 2-0 victory over Deportivo.