Cash-strapped Malaga did well to ease their financial worries by qualifying for the Champions League group stages, and they now face a real test against star-studded Zenit.
The Russians are still not playing to their potential, but they boast a team that can beat just about any side in Europe.
Malaga surprisingly encountered huge financial problems at the end of last season, which saw important players Santi Cazorla, Salomon Rondon, Enzo Maresca and Joris Mathijsen leave the club in off-season.
With the side decimated by the numerous departures, not many people believed los Boquerones would beat Panathinaikos in Champions League play-offs, but they impressed to record a 2-0 aggregate win.
Following the European success, the club managed to sign Javier Saviola, Roque Santa Cruz, Oguchi Onyewu and Manuel Iturra, as well as beat Real Zaragoza and Levante in La Liga.
The hosts are now brimming with confidence before the clash with Zenit, and BetVictor has them at 2.62 (13/8) to win this game as well.
Jeremy Toulalan is set to return from a hamstring injury, but Seba Fernandez is doubtful with a muscle strain.
Probable starting line-up (4-2-3-1): Caballero – Sergio Sanchez, Demichelis, Weligton, Monreal – Toulalan, Eliseu – Joaquin, Isco, Portillo – Saviola.
Zenit have produced quite a coup by signing Hulk and Axel Witsel in the final stage of the summer transfer window, and this just goes to show how serious the club takes the new Champions League campaign.
Luciano Spalletti’s side enjoyed a bright start to the season, winning four straight games after the Super Cup defeat to Rubin, but they appear to be going through a rough patch at the moment, having won just one of their last four fixtures.
Even so, Zenit certainly have enough quality to compete for a win in Malaga, so bear in mind BetVictor pays 2.90 (19/10) on away win.
While Brazilian forward Hulk is expected to bring an improvement to the attacking department, it is Alexander Kerzhakov who will be relied on up front after bagging 6 goals in 5 league games this term. The Russian international is 3.10 (21/20) with bet365 to continue the impressive run.
Axel Witsel has stayed in Russia after picking up an injury at the weekend, while Danny, Sergei Semak and Domenico Criscito remain sidelined.
Probable starting line-up (4-3-3): Malafeev – Anyukov, Hubocan, Lombaerts, Yanbayev – Shirokov, Denisoc, Zyryanov – Bystrov, Kerzhakov, Hulk.