Brief news from La Liga
ahead of this weekend's matches:
Leaders Real Madrid may recall Marcelo at home to
fourth-placed Levante on Sunday after the Brazil
full-back, who has been sidelined by a thigh problem, came
through a full training session on Friday.
Coach Jose Mourinho had 21 of his 23 squad members available
for the session including winger Angel di Maria and midfielder
Sami Khedira who are returning from injury.
Only midfielders Lassana Diarra and Hamit Altintop were
absent, the club said on their website.
Real will have their lead over second-placed Barca cut to
four points by the time they meet Levante at the Bernabeu if the
champions win at Osasuna on Saturday.
With 21 matches played, Real have 55 points from a possible
63 with Barca on 48. Valencia, who host struggling Sporting
Gijon on Sunday, are a further 11 points back in third.
Barca have Pedro available at Osasuna after he was given
the all-clear on Friday following an injury layoff, the world
and European champions said on their website.
Pedro's Spain team-mate Sergio Busquets is out after he
sustained a deep gash to his leg in last week's 2-1 win at home
to Real Sociedad.
"Busquets is not travelling because he is not able to play,"
coach Pep Guardiola told a news conference. "The wound could
open and we would lose him for three weeks."
The match at the Reyno de Navarra stadium in Pamplona is
among the toughest left this season and only a win will do,
"In the league we are at the very limit and the players know
it," the former Barca and Spain midfielder added. "Whatever
happens though I will not let the players throw in the towel."
Centre-back Gerard Pique also warned Real that Barca would
not give up on their bid for a fourth straight domestic crown.
"The struggle for the title is going to be a long one for
whoever ends up winning it," the Spain international said.
"Count on us being there in the fight at the end of the season."
The latest round of matches have been overshadowed by the
prospect of another strike after the professional football
league (LFP) broke off talks with the players' union (AFE) over
a wide-ranging agreement covering wages and working conditions.
The season started a week late in August after the AFE
called a stoppage as part of a bid to help players whose wages
had not been paid, especially those at clubs in lower divisions
that are suffering from financial difficulties.
A preliminary deal was struck which allowed the season to
get underway and the two sides had been discussing a variety of
issues before the LFP accused the union on Thursday of
"intransigence" and ended negotiations.
Atletico Madrid are playing more like a team and have
sorted out some of their problems at the back since the arrival
of new coach Diego Simeone at the end of last year, according to
Turkey midfielder Arda Turan.
"We have plenty of quality and we are playing better
defensively," Turan told a news conference ahead of Saturday's
game at Racing Santander. "We feel like a team and we are
doing what the coach asks."
Atletico are seventh on 30 points while Santander are mired
in the relegation zone on 22.
Athletic Bilbao reached the King's Cup final with an 8-3
aggregate win over Mirandes on Tuesday and victory at Real Betis
in Saturday's late kick-off would lift them above Espanyol
and Levante into fourth on 33 points, at least for a day.
Espanyol host bottom club Real Zaragoza on Sunday.
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