Punal baffled by Malaga woes

Osasuna captain Patxi Punal is perplexed as to why Malaga are having such a poor season but has warned his team-mates it would be a serious mistake to underestimate their relegation rivals.

This time last year Malaga were sitting in the top four of the Primera Division and gearing up for the Champions League last-16 second leg against Porto - a match they would win before going on to suffer a heartbreaking quarter-final exit to Borussia Dortmund.

However, fast forward 12 months and the Andalusian side are in the midst of a desperate relegation battle, lying only above the drop zone on goal difference and with only one win from nine matches in 2014.

Punal, speaking ahead of Monday's visit of Bernd Schuster's side, said: "I find it very strange, because, even though players have left, they still have some top-class players.

"We aren't on the inside and we don't know what's going on, but it does surprise me what's happening to them."

However, the veteran midfielder knows just what Malaga are capable of, even if his side are unbeaten in three matches against the south-coast club this season, winning in the league and drawing twice in the Copa del Rey.

He said: "If you are not at 100 per cent they can make things very difficult for you. It's a team against whom any mistake can cost you very dear."

And Osasuna cannot afford any costly errors, as they are only three points better off than Malaga and next week have a daunting trip to wounded champions Barcelona.

The 38-year-old Punal, who is fit to return after injury, added: "We're aware of what's at stake. They are three points against a direct rival; a hurt rival under pressure from their fans and who will come here to give it everything.

"It will be a very tough game."

Like Osasuna, Malaga will also be desperate for a good result on Monday knowing they may not get much out of their next fixture - a home match with in-form Real Madrid.

However, with the Andalusians having only lost once in 12 visits to Pamplona, Malaga midfielder Samuel Garcia is in optimistic mood.

He said: "The team is working well. We're aware of the tough situation we're in, but we're sticking together and working as hard as we can to move forward.

"Monday's game is going to be a difficult one, as we know what a tough ground it is. History has been good to us, however, having only lost once at El Sadar, so we'll try our best to continue the positive streak. We're going to go all out to win."