MADRID - Brief news from La Liga ahead of
this weekend's matches:
Barcelona's King's Cup final against arch-rivals Real
Madrid has dominated the sports headlines after the pair won
their last four contests this week but midfielder Javier
Mascherano has warned their focus must quickly return to La
Leaders Barca host misfiring Atletico Madrid on Saturday seeking a Spanish record 16th consecutive league win.
"Great teams like Atletico are most dangerous when they are
wounded," the Argentine told reporters. "We mustn't
under-estimate anyone because for sure they'll want to put on a
good show against us."
Barca are likely to have midfielder Andres Iniesta back
after the Spanish international shook off a shoulder strain, but
Carles Puyol and Jeffren are still injured.
Atletico, who have conceded 14 goals on their last three
league trips to Barcelona, will be without suspended defender
Luis Perea. They have lost their last three matches without
Real Madrid will have Marcelo back after a spot of flu
when promoted Real Sociedad visit on Sunday. They trail
Barca by seven points after losing at Osasuna last weekend, but
have a 100 percent home record.
Karim Benzema is likely to be preferred up front to Emmanuel
Adebayor, who scored on his home debut in the 2-0 Cup win over
Sevilla on Wednesday.
Third-placed Villarreal host struggling local rivals
Levante on Saturday having agreed a new contract with
midfielder Cani until 2014. The 29-year-old scored a spectacular
goal from near the halfway line against Osasuna last month.
Levante will be without suspended top scorer Felipe Caicedo.
The Ecuador striker has netted eight so far this season.
Fourth-placed Valencia host Hercules without defenders
David Navarro, who has been given a two-match ban, and Ricardo
Costa, one match, following red cards against Racing Santander.
Athletic Bilbao, sixth, rejected an approach from
Liverpool for their striker Fernando Llorente, the Spain
international said ahead of Saturday's clash at home to Sporting
"Liverpool came to Bilbao and spoke to the club, but
obviously Athletic didn't sell me. There's nothing more to say,"
Llorente told Spanish radio. "My immediate future is here and
I'm going to try and make the most of it."
Racing, who have just been taken over by Indian
businessman Ahsan Ali Syed, have successfully over-turned a
two-match ban for Medhi Lacen on appeal, and the midfielder is
free to play away to Real Zaragoza on Saturday.
Racing top scorer Swede Markus Rosenberg is suspended but
new signing Giovani Dos Santos goes straight into the squad.
Racing are 17th, one point behind 15th-placed Zaragoza.
Struggling Malaga were one of the busiest clubs in the
January transfer window but have lost three on the trot to slip
to the foot of the standings. They visit Sevilla on Sunday.
"Psychologically it's difficult to be bottom, but we know
what we have to do. We need to be stronger as a team, starting
from the back, and try to concede fewer goals," Brazil
midfielder Julio Baptista told sports daily AS.
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