Among the passengers on the Málaga plane to Portugal, as the side travelled to play their Champions League last-16 first leg against FC Porto, were Eduardo Padilla, Federico Beltrán and Fernando Puche. All three are former presidents of the club, and all three endured mandates dominated by less lofty concerns: getting the club out of the third and fourth tiers of Spanish league football, and leading the club to Primera División as quickly as possible. Such a task was not easy. They faced a long and winding road with plenty of bumps along the way. In those years of austerity, they could only dream of the scenario they prepare for at the Estádio do Dragão: thousands upon thousands of fans of the 'Albiazules' listening with pride to the Champions League anthem - not confined to watching from their front rooms, but with front-row seats at the greatest show in town.
Isco, the young Málaga talent the whole of Europe is fighting over, told AS on Monday: "This is the most important match in the club's history". The club's most memorable moments had come in the 2002 Intertoto Cup triumph over Villareal, or the promotions won against Terrassa, Albacete and Tenerife. But this season, the real victory for this tremendous Málaga outfit has been in continually conveying to their support that "the most important match is yet to come". That was the case in Athens against Panathanaikos, and it certainly was the case when the team fought toe-to-toe with AC Milan, seven-time winners of Europe's top club competition. Tuesday night's game will again be the club's most important yet. Twice European champions, unbeaten in the Portuguese league - however you look at it, FC Porto is a prestigious, formidable opponent.
Málaga coach Manuel Pellegrini is ready to bring out all the firepower available to him to tame the 'Dragons' in their own lair, with Isco, Joaquín, Jérémy Toulalan and Júlio Baptista all in line to feature. Meanwhile, defender Jesús Gámez is struggling with injury and Sergio Sánchez may deputise.