Brief news from La Liga ahead
of this weekend's matches:
Barcelona's chances of retaining their La Liga crown rely
on them beating leaders Real Madrid at the Nou Camp on Saturday, midfielder Xavi has said.
Jose Mourinho's Real hold a four-point lead with five games
left to play.
"If Barca win we will continue to have options in this
league and if we lose, well, Madrid will have wrapped it up, so
it is all or nothing," the Spain international told Gol
Barca's Chilean striker Alexis Sanchez is expected to
recover from a knock to his thigh and be available, while
defender Gerard Pique could return to the defence after sitting
out the Champions League semi-final first leg defeat to Chelsea.
Mourinho sent out his number two Aitor Karanka to speak to
the local media again on Friday, as he continued to snub the
habitual pre-league match news conferences. Karanka played down
the significance of the encounter.
"They are three important points because they are against a
direct rival, but there are four games left after that whether
we draw, win or lose," he said.
"We have all 24 members of the team available and we are
Atletico Madrid's 4-2 home win over Valencia in their
Europa League semi-final first leg on Thursday made it 10
straight wins in Europe.
They have a battle to return there next season. They lie
eighth in La Liga, one point outside the Europa League
qualification berths, on the same number of points (45) as
visiting Espanyol on Sunday, who are 10th.
Third-placed Valencia host Real Betis on Sunday
looking to recover after conceding four goals in consecutive
"With this level of play we won't reach the Europa League
final and we wouldn't deserve to," Valencia coach Unai Emery
said. "We must accept the criticisms and be strong at home to
achieve third place and to get through the semi-final."
Athletic Bilbao, seventh with 45 points, lost their Europa
League semi-final first leg 2-1 at Portugal's Sporting on
Thursday, and continue their push for a return to Europe next
season at basement side Racing Santander on Sunday.
"I think the change I made [withdrawing Ander Herrera]
coincided with their goals, and gave them the possibility to
turn the tie round," Bilbao coach Marcelo Bielsa said after his
side conceded twice in the last 15 minutes in Lisbon.
Champions League-chasing Levante, fifth with 48 points,
host ninth-placed Sevilla on Saturday at an unusual kick-off time
of 20:30 to avoid clashing with the 'Clasico'.
Sevilla, who suffered a 5-1 hammering at Getafe on Monday,
have winger Jose Antonio Reyes back after injury.
Borussia Dortmund's Mario Gotze ruled out of Champions League final against Bayern Munich
Malaga coach Manuel Pellegrini will leave the La Liga club at the end of the current season
Stoke City and manager Tony Pulis part company by mutual agreement after seven years
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