Joaquin: All down to Pellegrini

Winger Joaquin Sanchez has praised Coach Manuel Pellegrini ahead of Malaga's Champions League debut tonight.

The Costa del Sol outfit beat Panathinaikos in a play-off to make it to this stage, and have been drawn in Group C along with seven-time European champions AC Milan, Anderlecht and Zenit St Petersburg, the visitors to La Rosaleda this evening.

After last season's run to fourth place in La Liga, Joaquin is aware that Malaga's long suffering fans have never had it so good. However, he was quick to play down expectations ahead of the clash against the big-spending Russian title-holders.

“It is a dream come true for the supporters that Malaga are in this competition,” he told El Pais. “I'd like to say we are going to go all the way to the final, but all I can say for sure is that we will try to go as far as possible.

“Zenit are a team with a great tradition in European competitions and besides, they have strengthened recently with players of the quality of Hulk and Axel Witsel. We have made a great start to the season in La Liga and want to win, but we know it won't be easy.”

Joaquin is set to follow in the footsteps of former Barcelona, Real Madrid and Mallorca full-back Miquel Soler and become only the second Spanish player to play in the Champions League for three different Primera Liga clubs. The Cadiz-born winger has already played in Europe's top club competition for Betis and Valencia.

“It makes me very proud to play in the Champions League for the three different Liga clubs I have represented in my career,” the 31-year-old added. “It also means that the good work I have put in has some reward at the end of it.”

Malaga have enjoyed a excellent start to the season, taking 10 points from a possible 12 in La Liga despite serious financial problems and the forced sales of Santi Cazorla, Salomon Rondon and Joris Mathijsen. Joaquin credits Coach Manuel Pellegrini for the recovery.

“Things are better now, but what we have gone through was hard. We have overcome it thanks to the great professionalism shown by the squad and because Pellegrini has held things together.

“Without him, all this would have collapsed.”

Tags Joaquin Pellegrini Zenit