MADRID - Brief news from La Liga ahead
of this weekend's matches:
Cristiano Ronaldo was left out of the Real Madrid squad to
play Hercules at the Bernabeu on Saturday to give him
more time to recover from a muscle strain.
The Portugal forward missed last week's win at Racing
Santander, but is likely to be ready for Wednesday's Champions
League last-16 second leg against Olympique Lyon.
Midfielders Lassana Diarra and Sami Khedira and defenders
Alvaro Arbeloa and Ezequiel Garay returned after injury. Ricardo
Carvalho was rested.
Hercules have included Paraguay striker Nelson Valdez in
their squad at the player's request, coach Esteban Vigo said,
after having missed their last five matches with injury.
Valdez is the only Hercules player to have scored away from
home, bagging all three goals for La Liga's worst travellers.
"It will be difficult, but it also was at the Nou Camp and
we managed to win there," Vigo told reporters, referring to
their 2-0 win over Barca last September.
Real Madrid trail leaders Barcelona by seven points with
11 matches left to play.
Barca travel to play seventh-placed Sevilla on Sunday. They trained without injured Carles Puyol on Friday,
while Pedro worked apart from the group.
Sevilla are without injured Brazilian striker Luis Fabiano
and suspended French defender Julien Escude, while goalkeeper
Andres Palop and winger Diego Perotti are doubts.
"It's possible (Barca could be tired after playing Arsenal
midweek), above all if the result is against them and they have
to make an extra effort," Sevilla coach Gregorio Manzano told
"Our objective is to score first to oblige them to make this
effort. If they have their day and score first they are almost
Fourth-placed Villarreal were boosted for the visit of
Sporting Gijon on Sunday with a 3-2 win away to Bayer
Leverkuen in the Europa League on Thursday.
"It's an important victory for the team because we haven't
been doing so well in recent games," Brazilian striker Nilmar
told reporters. "We needed a lift like this."
Sixth-placed Espanyol have been hit by a spate of injuries
and their push for the European places has suffered with a run
of six defeats from their last seven outings. They host
improving Deportivo La Coruna on Sunday.
"We believe in the youngsters who are having to step in,"
coach Mauricio Pochettino told reporters. "In a couple of years
we are going to be tremendously strong and we'll be able to look
back on all this with pride."
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