La Liga Preview: Simeone looks to Torres, Real seek response

Atletico Madrid are looking to Fernando Torres for inspiration ahead of a trip to Valencia, while Real Madrid aim for an immediate response.

Diego Simeone is backing Fernando Torres to inspire an improvement in Atletico Madrid's recent form, starting with Sunday's trip to fellow high-flyers Valencia.

The Spain international began his second Atletico spell in fine fashion, scoring twice in a 2-2 Copa del Rey draw at Real Madrid in only his third match, before also netting against Barcelona in the same competition.

Since then, however, the 30-year-old has seemingly suffered due to the impressive form of Mario Mandzukic and Antoine Griezmann, making only two La Liga starts so far.

Atletico themselves have been somewhat erratic in 2015, winning just five of their previous 13 outings across all competitions, leaving them seven points behind pacesetters Real Madrid.

Defeat at Valencia on Sunday will see the champions slip behind Nuno Espirito Santo's men in the top four and Simeone is hopeful that Torres can build upon an eye-catching cameo against Sevilla.

"His entering [against Sevilla] boosted our counter-attacks and offensive connections," the coach told reporters. "

"You could see that we could be dangerous in some counter-attacks. The introduction of Torres to the team makes me very happy. 

"We need men of his characteristics and the enthusiasm with which he took the field. We need people who understand that no-one is more important than the team, no-one, not even the coach."

Leaders Real will be looking to bounce back from an underwhelming 1-1 draw at home to Villarreal, though a trip to Athletic Bilbao on Saturday could provide another stern test.

However, Athletic have taken just a single point from their last eight league clashes with Real, while Ernesto Valverde's men have struggled at home of late, winning only one of their previous six Liga games at San Mames.

Real coach Carlo Ancelotti could also be set to welcome back several players from injury, with Sami Khedira, Sergio Ramos and Luka Modric all in contention to return, though James Rodriguez remains sidelined.

Should Real trip up again, Barcelona will be aiming to pounce and potentially claim top spot for themselves.

Luis Enrique's side host Rayo Vallecano in Sunday's early kick-off, a team they have scored 31 times against in their last seven meetings and they will be big favourites once again, with Paco Jemez's side on a run of three successive away defeats in La Liga.

In the battle for the European spots, fifth-placed Sevilla head to Deportivo La Coruna, while Villarreal – just a point behind Unai Emery's side – host a resurgent Celta Vigo and Malaga travel across Andalucia to local rivals Granada.

Rock-bottom Cordoba will be looking to end a run of five successive losses when they entertain Getafe on Monday, while Levante could move out of the drop zone with a win over Eibar in Friday's solitary fixture.

David Moyes' Real Sociedad host Espanyol in the weekend's other match.