McAusland looking to make history
Malaga coach Manuel Pellegrini is worried the fevered build-up
to Wednesday night’s UEFA Champions League last-16 second-leg tie
against Porto could get the better of his side.
The match has been billed as the biggest in Malaga’s century-old
history as they bid to overturn a 1-0 deficit and book their place
in the quarter-finals for the first time.
The southern Spanish city has been gripped by a debut Champions
League campaign that had seen their side go unbeaten – and beat AC
Milan to win their group – until defeat in Porto last month.
The importance of the game has been heightened further following
UEFA’s decision to ban them from European competition – should they
qualify in the next four years – due to unpaid bills.
Malaga, fourth in La Liga, have been left aggrieved by the
decision, claiming they had been made “scapegoats” and stirred
emotion as they bid to prove themselves on the pitch.
“It’s important that we keep our nerves and anxiety under
control, as if we’re too nervous we’ll make mistakes,” Pellegrini
said at a press conference.
“An early goal would be ideal, but we’ve got 90 minutes to
“We’re focusing on playing a clever match and ensuring we have a
positive result at the end of the 90 minutes.”
Porto midfielder Joao Moutinho scored the only goal of a first
leg the Portuguese champions dominated.
Pellegrini does not expect the visitors to sit back on their
lead with the influential Moutinho ready to return from a thigh
injury that has kept him out since the first leg.
“I don’t think Porto will change their style of play,” he
“They always have certain characteristics on the pitch and I’m
sure they won’t be concentrating on defence, but will be determined
to score to increase their advantage.
“Our priority is not to concede any goals, as this would mean us
having to score three times in order to win.”
Brazilian forward Julio Baptista has recently returned after
injury and admitted the significance of the match has not been lost
on the players.
“This is an historic match for Malaga,” he said.
“The fans will really enjoy the match and we’ll be doing
everything in our power to ensure we get the result we’re all
Malaga’s desperation to progress has put Porto on high alert,
despite Moutinho revealing his side believe they can lift the
“We must take it match by match,” he told www.uefa.com
“We all have the ambition to win the Champions League, but we’re
not thinking further than the game against Malaga.
“That would be a mistake, because they’re extremely difficult to
beat and will be doing everything they can to go through.”
In addition to Moutinho’s return Porto have also welcomed back
French defender Eliaquim Mangala and Kelvin to their matchday
Malaga did not name midfielders Eliseu and Francisco Portillo,
despite both returning to training this week, while United States
defender Oguchi Onyewu is still not fit.
But the Paisley-born centre-back will try to shut out the
importance of the occasion when he takes to the Hampden pitch on
Sunday for the Scottish League Cup final against Hearts.
McAusland was born into a St Mirren-supporting family in 1988
but he has been told all about the day when Ian Ferguson scored the
winner against Dundee United at Hampden.
The closest McAusland has come to a major cup final with Saints
was watching his former team-mates lose in the 2010 League Cup
So McAusland, whose father Bryan is a St Mirren director, is
eager to make the most of his chance to make history.
“Being a boyhood fan and a ball boy, always being close to the
club with my dad as well, it’s going to be massive,” he said.
“And for all my friends and family I hope we can do it.
“Everybody knows who the 1987 team are. A lot of people have
been saying if we can do that on Sunday and win the cup, then
people are going to know who we are for years to come.
“You don’t talk about that at the time and you don’t think about
it. As soon as you step on the field, it will just be a normal
“The game will take care of itself and afterwards hopefully the
party commences if we win. But we need to take it like any normal
McAusland began his career at St Mirren but their last trip to a
final coincided with his season with Queen of the South, before the
club re-signed him.
And he admits he could not have foreseen returning to Hampden as
a St Mirren player when he watched his team lose 1-0 to a nine-man
The 24-year-old said: “I was at Queen of the South and I was
there supporting the boys and I felt for them. It was a horrible
way to lose.
“There are still a few of them here, so it will be nice for them
to be involved on Sunday and hopefully we can do it this time.
“It was really frustrating. They had a great chance and when
Rangers lost a couple of players, I think everyone around us
thought we could win it.
“That was thoroughly disappointing that we couldn’t do it that
day but hopefully we can make amends for that on Sunday and give
the fans something to cheer about.”