Brief news from La Liga ahead
of this weekend's matches:
Barcelona should have defenders Gerard Pique and Daniel
Alves available for Saturday's match at fourth-placed Levante after the pair were declared fit and returned to full
training on Friday following minor injuries.
Midfielder Seydou Keita worked apart from his team mates due
to a thigh problem and is unavailable, Barca said on their
The champions, who have six matches to close the four-point
gap with leaders Real Madrid, are seeking an 11th straight
league win at Levante's Ciutat de Valencia stadium.
Real, who host Sporting Gijon on Saturday and play
at Barca's Nou Camp stadium a week later, will be without Xabi
Alonso at the Bernabeu after the Spain midfielder collected a
fifth yellow card in Wednesday's 4-1 win at Atletico Madrid and
earned an automatic one-game suspension.
Alonso's absence could open the way for Esteban Granero,
Lassana Diarra or Nuri Sahin to start alongside Sami Khedira in
Barca's talismanic captain Carles Puyol, who turned 34 on
Friday, is enjoying one of the best runs of form of his career
and has already netted his best tally of goals in a single
season with two in the league and two in the King's Cup.
Barca have told the shaggy-haired Spain centre-back's agent
they want to offer him a contract extension beyond June 2013
when his current deal expires and the club are hoping he will
end his career at the Nou Camp, daily Sport reported on Friday.
"Happy birthday to my good friend @Carles5puyol, 34 years
old," Puyol's team-mate Cesc Fabregas wrote on his Twitter feed.
"Only 7 years to retire!" added the former Arsenal captain.
Real forward Cristiano Ronaldo can break his own La Liga
record of 40 goals in a season set last term with a goal at the
Bernabeu on Saturday.
The Portuguese international netted a hat-trick at Atletico
that took his league tally to 40, one more than Barca forward
Lionel Messi, who has 61 in all competitions compared with 52
Ronaldo will be suspended for the 'Clasico' against Barca
if he is booked in the Gijon game but assistant coach Aitor
Karanka, standing in for Jose Mourinho, said on Friday the club
were not concerned.
"Cristiano has been playing for two months with four yellow
cards and there is no problem," Karanka told a news conference.
Real have amassed 104 goals in their 32 league games this
term and are closing in on the Spanish record of 107 the club
set under Welsh coach John Toshack in the 1989/90 season.
"It's easy to say it but it's not easy to do it," Toshack,
currently in charge of Macedonia, was quoted as saying in
Friday's edition of Spanish sports daily Marca.
Third-placed Valencia play at Espanyol on Sunday
having taken just five points from their last five matches and
their lead over fourth-placed Malaga, who host Real Sociedad, is only two points.
Unai Emery's side, who are 30 points behind Real, are
through to the semi-finals of the Europa League and play their
first leg at La Liga rivals Atletico Madrid on Thursday.
"Our goal is to finish third and win the Europa League,"
midfielder Mehmet Topal, who joined from Galatasaray in his
native Turkey two years ago, said at a news conference on
"We are training very hard and very focused on the two
competitions," he added.
Ambitious Qatar-owned Malaga missed a chance to climb
above Valencia into an automatic Champions League qualification
slot when they surrendered the lead and lost 2-1 at Villarreal
"It's a shame to have scored a goal and been well received
by the fans and then not have won or at least drawn the game,"
midfielder Santi Cazorla, who put Malaga ahead against his
former club in the 65th minute, told reporters.
In the battle to avoid the drop, bottom side Racing
Santander have 25 points ahead of their game at Villarreal on
Sunday, three behind Gijon in 19th and Real Zaragoza, who
host Granada, in 18th.
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Malaga coach Manuel Pellegrini will leave the La Liga club at the end of the current season
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