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Wednesday December 19 2012
Pellegrini versus Mourinho

Manuel Pellegrini takes on Jose Mourinho on Saturday from a rare position of strength, writes Ally Macleod.

Chilean Coach Manuel Pellegrini renews his rivalry with Jose Mourinho this weekend as Malaga welcome Real Madrid to La Rosaleda for the closing round of 2012. With a mere five points separating the clubs in the Primera Division, the spotlight focuses on the contest between the two Coaches, which, for the first time, sees Pellegrini in a sufficiently strong position to take on Mourinho.

Since Mourinho assumed the reigns from Pellegrini at the Bernabeu in the summer of 2010, the relationship between the pair has been fraught with difficulty. In typically unprompted and controversial style, the Portuguese was quick to distance himself from his predecessor by claiming that: “if I leave Real Madrid, it will be to a big club in Italy or England rather than Malaga.”

As Los Boquerones languished in the table, Mourinho later further fanned the flames when he stated Pellegrini’s 96-point haul in 2009/10 - then a club record - only made him the ‘best loser’.

For a long time, the Malaga Coach has been loath to descend into a public slagging match. Despite the orchestrated campaign of criticism he received from Marca during his time in the hotseat in the capital, he has maintained a dignified approach.

Yet that was to change in October as Madrid flagged in the title race. The 59-year-old grasped the opportunity to criticise Mourinho’s physical and defensive style of play, by claiming a team as talented as Real Madrid should focus on their attacking qualities and that he ‘did not like Coaches who only play for the result’.

As Malaga consolidate their position as one of the top four teams in Spain and in light of Real’s stuttering form, it is a favourable time for Pellegrini to again turn the heat on Mourinho. Despite the summer fire sale in Andalusia, the club has excelled in Europe thanks to their robust organisation and incisive wide play. They now boast the best defensive record in the Primera, which is a far cry from the 7-0 humiliation Mourinho’s men inflicted on a weakened Malaga in March 2011.

That was one of four defeats that the Chilean Coach has suffered against Los Blancos since taking over in November 2010. However, the shift in momentum between the two clubs means a repeat of that scoreline appears inconceivable. Last weekend Malaga defeated Sevilla to tighten their stranglehold on fourth place. In doing so Pellegrini equalled the record for most wins by a serving Coach in La Liga and further established himself as one of the elder statesmen of Spain’s coaching fraternity.

For all his experience, his relationship with Mourinho has been defined by the Portuguese’s barbed criticism from the exalted heights at the top of the Primera. This weekend Pellegrini has the opportunity to make the record his own and redress the balance between the pair.

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