And manager Manuel Pellegrini declared himself happy with his side’s preparation as he believes it is important to carry a positive momentum into their return to European action.
“To go into that game winning is different than doing so after a defeat,” he told the club’s website. “We have maintained our position in fourth and now we want to get to the quarter-finals of the Champions League, although we have a very difficult game in Portugal on Tuesday. It is always important to go into those games after a win.” The Chilean coach even had the luxury of resting some key players as Martin Demichelis, Jeremy Toulalan and Joaquin all started on the bench.
He admitted to having one eye on the game on the game in midweek, when he said: “There is always a little attention on a Champions League game, but it was important to win to maintain our league position and even more so against a great opponent like Athletic.” Pellegrini’s squad are also in pretty good shape with Eliseu the only absentee from the 22-man party that willl fly to Portugal on Monday morning. Eliseu was, though, one of Malaga’s stars in an incredible debut campaign in the Champions League as he scored four times in eight games.
And with Nacho Monreal having joined Arsenal in January, there is likely to be a Champions League debut for Portuguese full-back Vitorino Antunes.