The first eight games of the La Liga season have not quite gone according to plan for Real Madrid. Already five points behind leaders Barcelona and Atletico Madrid, in a league where even a few dropped points can be critical, Real need to find their mojo soon.
The first test post-international break is in the shape of Malaga, who are under a familiar face in former Real manager Bernd Schuster.
Malaga are firmly perched in midtable with 9 points from eight games, which is decent considering all the exits in the summer, while Real are third on 19, having drawn and lost one game each.
Carlo Ancelotti believes now is the time to pick up their form and start a run which will bring them closer to Barcelona and Atletico, two teams that are perfect in La Liga so far this season.
"I expect a good game from Real Madrid," the Italian said on Friday. "I am sure we are going to improve in this match. The players now understand what went wrong in previous matches and I am sure that tomorrow will be different.
"They have to play better due to the individual quality the team has. We need to have more continuity as a team and improve defensively and in our speed of play. After the match against Levante we haven't trained with all the players, but I see the players as more focused.
"We are at an important moment in the season, which begins tomorrow, and we are ready to face this important week."
Malaga coach Schuster, though, has a score or two to settle after he was unceremoniously fired as Real coach way back in 2008. "I won't deny that it's an attractive game for me," Schuster told Marca. "Madrid is in a strange moment and I am going to go for it.
"Carlo has arrived with a different philosophy, a different style, a different way of behaving, and making the change is a really tough challenge. "They are lacking in organisation ... but I am realistic. To come out of the game with anything, we will have to play a great match and they a bad one and even then, they can still beat you."
Team News: Gareth Bale is set for a return from injury, after opting out of Wales duty, while defender Raphael Varane is ruled out with a knee problem along with long-term absentee Xabi Alonso. Sami Khedira, Isco and Asier Illarramendi are set for starts, but Karim Benzema is a slight doubt.
"Illarramendi, Khedira and Isco will start and Bale will play some minutes," Ancelotti said. "I will give priority to those players who have not played internationals. Illara trained here, and Khedira and Isco didn't play."
Key men: Real Madrid: Cristiano Ronaldo, of course, but Gareth Bale will also be keen to make an impression after a stop-start season.
Malaga: Goals need to come for Malaga, because Real are expected to find the back of the net, and the onus will be on former Manchester City striker Roque Santa Cruz.
Where to watch
The game is scheduled for a 7.30 p.m. (IST) start with no live telecast. You can catch the match live online by clicking the official link HERE.
Expected lineups: Real Madrid: Lopez; Arbeloa, Pepe, Ramos, Marcelo; Khedira, Illarramendi, Di Maria, Isco, Ronaldo; Morata.
Malaga: Caballero; Gamez, Sanchez, Chen, Antunes; Darder, Tissone; Portillo, Morales, Eliseu; Santa Cruz.
Prediction: 4-1 to Real Madrid