La Liga

Malaga v Atletico Madrid: Charles confident of upsetting joint-leaders

The odds are firmly stacked against struggling Malaga when they face an Atletico Madrid team who are unbeaten in their last 15 matches and have won all of their last nine games.

Sunday’s La Liga match will be both sides’ last before a 10-day festive break in the fixture calendar and Javi Gracia’s men are under extreme pressure having crashed out of the Copa del Rey at the hands of second-tier outfit Mirandes this week.

Malaga have only won one of their last six league games as well, leaving them down in 16th place as they prepare to welcome a rampant Atletico side – who are level on points with Barcelona at the top – to La Rosaleda.

A point or more in the match for Atletico would have them as outright leaders at Christmas, with Barca not in domestic action this weekend due to their Club World Cup commitments.

Striker Charles, though, believes Malaga are capable of tearing up the form book and picking up a vital three points.

“We are going to forget about last Wednesday’s match, that was another competition,” he said.

“Now, I hope we can secure two La Liga victories on the run, in order to enjoy our Christmas holidays with our families, and above all, so as to avoid the relegation zone. I have said on several occasions that this is a quality team and I have no doubt that we will overcome this situation.

“We have played some amazing matches against major rivals and although Sunday’s game will be extremely difficult, we are really hopeful that playing at our home ground in front of our fans will all go in our favour, so we can improve our position.

“Atletico Madrid are in first place in the table, they won La Liga two seasons ago, reached the final of the Champions League and are a squad fighting for the championship. They are a very good team, we have a lot of respect for them, but we do not fear them.

“We are playing at home and I think in all our matches at La Rosaleda we have shown we mean business.  We have had numerous chances to win in all our games and Sunday will be no different.

“I see the team as being capable of playing a fantastic game on Sunday, so we earn points and hopefully win.  I see my team having possibilities of earning a point or even winning.”

The hosts’ record in the fixture will not give them much confidence, though. They have gone eight La Liga games without a win against Atletico, while they have not beaten Diego Simeone’s men in any of their last five league meetings at home, scoring in just one of them.

Jackson Martinez (foot) has not played for Atletico since early November, while Tiago (shin) is a long-term absentee.

Key Opta stats:

– Malaga have won just two of their last 12 league games at home (D6 L4).

– Atletico have gone nine league games without a defeat (W7 D2) and they have kept five clean sheets in that run.

– Malaga have finished the most games with goalless draws in La Liga this season (4).

– Malaga have scored in the fewest games this season (4) in La Liga and Atletico have scored in all but one (against Villarreal).

–  Charles has scored five of the nine Malaga goals in La Liga this season.

– Antoine Griezmann (8) has already scored more goals than in his two first La Liga seasons for Real Sociedad (seven in 2010-11 and also seven in 2011-12).

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