Brief news from La Liga
ahead of this weekend's matches:
Barcelona have forward Alexis Sanchez and midfielder
Thiago Alcantara available for Saturday's match at Sevilla after the pair were given the all-clear following brief
injury layoffs, the club said on Friday.
A win for the Spanish, European and world champions at
Sevilla's Sanchez Pizjuan stadium would trim the gap to Real
Madrid to seven points ahead of the leaders' game at home to
fourth-placed Malaga on Sunday.
Barca are still reeling from the announcement on Thursday
that their France defender Eric Abidal needs a liver transplant.
Abidal is unlikely to play again this season and Adriano or
captain Carles Puyol are possible options for coach Pep
Guardiola in the 32-year-old's left-back slot.
Spanish media reported on Friday that Abidal's enforced
absence mean Barca will attempt to lure Spain left-back Jordi
Alba from Valencia in the close-season.
Real striker Karim Benzema is back to full fitness after
being sidelined by a muscle tear as Jose Mourinho's side prepare
to host big-spending Malaga.
"I am feeling very good physically and there is no problem
with the adductor muscle," the France international said in an
interview published in Friday's As sports daily. "I am back to
full fitness and full of confidence."
Malaga defender Nacho Monreal is hopeful the team can
reproduce the form that enabled them to open a surprise 2-0 lead
at Real in a King's Cup game in January, although they went on
to lose the match 3-2.
"We're in the Champions League qualification places and the
team is on good form: excited, confident and hoping to play like
we did in the cup and take three points away from the Bernabeu,"
Monreal told a news conference on Friday.
"We know they're very powerful in attack, but also that they
sometimes allow an opening so we need to take advantage to try
to damage them and give ourselves more of a chance."
Third-placed Valencia, Athletic Bilbao in seventh, and
eighth-placed Atletico Madrid are all on a high after impressive
Europa League performances midweek as all three progressed to
the last eight of Europe's second-tier club competition.
Valencia are four points ahead of Malaga and play at Bilbao
on Sunday, when Atletico travel to the Balearic Islands
to take on Real Mallorca.
Bottom side Real Zaragoza, six points adrift of
19th-placed Sporting Gijon, desperately need a win at home to
Osasuna on Saturday if they are to have any hope of avoiding the
"We are playing a strong team who are having a good season
and it won't be at all easy," coach Manolo Jimenez told a news
conference on Friday. "They are a strong and battle-hardened
side who fight for every ball."
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