Caballero completes rise to the top

Willy Caballero is thrilled to be starting for Malaga in the Champions League tonight, just 18 months after leaving the second tier.

The Argentine goalkeeper joined Malaga from Elche in February last year to help the Costa del Sol club through an injury crisis, and is now looking forward to lining-up for Manuel Pellegrini's side against Russian champions Zenit St Petersburg at La Rosaleda.

However, Caballero is hoping Malaga, despite their myriad off-field problems in the summer, can make appearing at the top table of European football a habit in the years to come.

“It is a dream to play in these games,” he told Marca. “To play in the Champions League once is good, but the important thing is to get back there year after year. That would demonstrate that we are a big club.”

The 31-year-old recognises that Pellegrini's side will have their work cut out against a Zenit side featuring big-money new signings Hulk and Axel Witsel.

“Zenit are even more dangerous now, they have more pace and more attacking potential. But it doesn't matter who we play against. We have to perform like we always do. We are mentally prepared and are sure of what we are doing.”

Caballero also joined the long list of names singing the praise of Chilean coach Pellegrini for his work in steering the club through troubled waters in recent months.

“He has a lot to do with the changes that have occurred at Malaga. The club are no longer battling for survival and want to be up there with the best.

“It all comes from his conviction in a way of playing the game. Everything changed after he kept us up two seasons ago and it comes from the head. You need to be able to believe it can be done. Pellegrini changed that.”
 

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