La Liga - Malaga to test mettle against Real
Nouveau riche Malaga matched Real Madrid's spending power during the summer and can measure how far they have come on the field of play when the world's wealthiest club by income visits the Rosaleda in La Liga on Saturday.
Malaga is better known as the heart of the Costa del Sol rather than as a footballing power - the club have never won a major trophy but they have been transformed since Qatari Sheikh Abdullah al Thani bought them last year.
Veteran Dutch striker Ruud van Nistelrooy - a former Real star - was an important arrival for the new campaign, and he joins high-calibre internationals Julio Baptista of Brazil, Spain´s Santi Cazorla, France's Jeremy Toulalan and Argentina's Martin Demichelis.
Van Nistelrooy is one of a number of Malaga personnel with links to Real, having helped them to win consecutive La Liga titles in 2007 and 2008, along with Baptista, sporting director Fernando Hierro, and coach Manuel Pellegrini.
"(Real) are on a good run of form and for us it is a big challenge to see where we are at present," the 35-year-old Van Nistelrooy told reporters.
"It comes at a good time for us because after what happened in Levante (3-0 defeat last weekend) we have our feet on the ground. We are a new team...we have character, we know where we want to go, and we are on the right path."
Pellegrini has guided them to sixth place after seven games, three points behind their third-placed visitors despite the surprise reverse at early pace-setters Levante, and they defend a 100 per cent home record.
There is no love lost between Pellegrini and the person who replaced him at the Bernabeu, Jose Mourinho, after they exchanged barbed comments before last season´s clash, and the pre-match handshake will make interesting viewing.
Real have won their last five games, scoring 21 goals along the way, and are one point behind leaders Barcelona, who host fourth-placed Sevilla on Saturday (2000).
Barca have also won five on the trot, without conceding, and face another miserly side in Sevilla, who have plugged the holes at the back from last season under new coach Marcelino.
Sevilla are, however, one of the lowest scoring teams in the top half of the table and will be without Spain striker Alvaro Negredo who has failed to recover from a thigh injury in time.
Cash-strapped Levante, who have had an astonishing start to the campaign, visit struggling Villarreal on Sunday (2000) when a sixth consecutive victory could keep them level with Barca at the top, and ahead of Real.