Debutants Malaga have toppled European giants AC Milan and Porto on their way to the Champions League quarter-finals and have another former winner in their sights when they host Borussia Dortmund on Wednesday.
Coach Manuel Pellegrini and his players have propelled the Costa del
Sol club to unprecedented success despite uncertainty over the commitment of their Qatari owner and cash-flow problems that prompted a ban from UEFA competition from next season.
Chilean Pellegrini has moulded a squad of experienced campaigners including Joaquin, Martin Demichelis, Jeremy Toulalan and Roque Santa Cruz into a highly efficient outfit, with promising youngsters like Isco providing a creative spark.
After beating seven-times European champions Milan 1-0 at the Rosaleda stadium on the way to topping Group C, Malaga dispatched 2004 winners Porto 2-0 in the last round on a festive night for local fans including Hollywood actor Antonio Banderas.
They are brimming with confidence ahead of the first leg with Dortmund, who won the Champions League in 1997.
If they reach the semi-finals, they will match the debut-season achievement of La Liga rivals Villarreal under Pellegrini in the 2005-06 season.
Known as "the engineer", the cerebral Pellegrini led an unfancied Villarreal team to the last four before they were narrowly beaten by Premier League side Arsenal.
"This is a tie lasting 180 minutes in which we have to be intelligent, dominate the match but without forgetting the return leg," Pellegrini told a news conference after Malaga's 3-1 La Liga victory at Rayo Vallecano on Saturday.
"Hopefully we will go to Dortmund with a solid advantage," added the former Real Madrid coach, who was sacked in 2010 to make way for Jose Mourinho.
Dortmund have several players battling for fitness after a hard-fought 2-1 victory at VfB Stuttgart that kept them in a distant second place in the Bundesliga on Saturday.
With only one trophy to chase for after losing the domestic battle to Bayern Munich this season, they are eager to leave their mark on Europe's elite club competition.
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