MADRID - Brief news from La Liga ahead of
this weekend's matches:
Barcelona captain Carles Puyol has been given the
all-clear by medical staff and included in the squad for
Saturday's game at Real Sociedad, the Spanish and
European champions said on Friday.
The Spain international has not played since undergoing knee
surgery in June and his return is a welcome development for
coach Pep Guardiola, who is still missing Puyol's partner in
central defence Gerard Pique.
"He is a fundamental player for us, he gives us
things that others do not, he is the captain, he has proven
experience in a wide range of situations," Guardiola told a news
"Seeing him content and shouting in training makes us happy
Barca have occasionally suffered a dip in form in recent
seasons after their players returned from international duty and
Guardiola said they are hoping to avoid a similar slip-up on
"The first match back after internationals has always been
tough for us.
"Real Sociedad are playing differently to last year and it's
a team that has made a very good impression on me. We'll have to
prepare ourselves well and make a big effort."
Full-backs Adriano and Maxwell and midfielder Ibrahim
Afellay were also given the all-clear after injury and are
available for the game in San Sebastian, Barca said in a
statement on their website.
Sociedad beat Barca 2-1 at their Anoeta stadium last
season and their Norway defender Vadim Demidov said the Basque
club's strong form at home could surprise the Catalans.
"I think this year will be tougher because they are an
incredible team but winning one match against them is not
impossible because we are strong at the Anoeta," he told a news
Real Madrid are a better team than last season and are
capable of getting the better of Barcelona, Spanish champions
for the past three years, according to Real's Portugal forward
"To beat them we have to play at 100 percent, but I also
think that this season we are more competitive, more mature and
have more experience," Ronaldo said in an interview published in
Friday's Marca sports daily.
"That's why I think this will be Real Madrid's year," La
Liga's top scorer last season with 40 goals added.
Real host city rivals Getafe on Saturday following
a 6-0 demolition of Real Zaragoza in the first round of matches.
Getafe coach Luis Garcia, who joined from Levante at the end
of last season, said on Thursday he was concerned about a number
of injuries in defence and on the wings but insisted his side
were capable of causing an upset.
"They have an excellent counterattack and also exploit the
spaces very well," Garcia told a news conference. "But Barca and
Madrid won't take all the points and there is always a chance."
Valencia can still have a good season despite the loss of
Spain forward Juan Mata to Chelsea and the club proved they can
survive the exit of top players after David Villa and David
Silva left, coach Unai Emery said.
"I believe in this Valencia independently of who is here,"
Emery said in an interview in Friday's As newspaper ahead of his
side's match at home to Atletico Madrid on Saturday.
"Last season we were able to improve on the previous
campaign and overcome all the doubts, internal and external,
that there were after we said goodbye to Villa and Silva."
Atletico's new signings including Colombia striker Radamel
Falcao, Brazilian playmaker Diego and Turkey midfielder Arda
Turan need time to adjust, coach Gregorio Manzano said at a news
conference on Friday.
"Maybe some of the latest signings are lacking a little bit
of connection with the rest of the team, which is logical," said
Manzano, who is beginning a second stint with the club.
"It needs some time so that they can continue to adapt and
improve their understanding with the others on the pitch."
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