Barca set sights on successive win record

MADRID - Brief news from La Liga ahead of this weekend's matches:

Barcelona's King's Cup final against arch-rivals Real Madrid has dominated the sports headlines after the pair won their last four contests this week but midfielder Javier Mascherano has warned their focus must quickly return to La Liga.

Leaders Barca host misfiring Atletico Madrid on Saturday seeking a Spanish record 16th consecutive league win.

"Great teams like Atletico are most dangerous when they are wounded," the Argentine told reporters. "We mustn't under-estimate anyone because for sure they'll want to put on a good show against us."

Barca are likely to have midfielder Andres Iniesta back after the Spanish international shook off a shoulder strain, but Carles Puyol and Jeffren are still injured.

Atletico, who have conceded 14 goals on their last three league trips to Barcelona, will be without suspended defender Luis Perea. They have lost their last three matches without scoring.

Real Madrid will have Marcelo back after a spot of flu when promoted Real Sociedad visit on Sunday. They trail Barca by seven points after losing at Osasuna last weekend, but have a 100 percent home record.

Karim Benzema is likely to be preferred up front to Emmanuel Adebayor, who scored on his home debut in the 2-0 Cup win over Sevilla on Wednesday.

Third-placed Villarreal host struggling local rivals Levante on Saturday having agreed a new contract with midfielder Cani until 2014. The 29-year-old scored a spectacular goal from near the halfway line against Osasuna last month.

Levante will be without suspended top scorer Felipe Caicedo. The Ecuador striker has netted eight so far this season.

Fourth-placed Valencia host Hercules without defenders David Navarro, who has been given a two-match ban, and Ricardo Costa, one match, following red cards against Racing Santander.

Athletic Bilbao, sixth, rejected an approach from Liverpool for their striker Fernando Llorente, the Spain international said ahead of Saturday's clash at home to Sporting Gijon.

"Liverpool came to Bilbao and spoke to the club, but obviously Athletic didn't sell me. There's nothing more to say," Llorente told Spanish radio. "My immediate future is here and I'm going to try and make the most of it."

Racing, who have just been taken over by Indian businessman Ahsan Ali Syed, have successfully over-turned a two-match ban for Medhi Lacen on appeal, and the midfielder is free to play away to Real Zaragoza on Saturday.

Racing top scorer Swede Markus Rosenberg is suspended but new signing Giovani Dos Santos goes straight into the squad. Racing are 17th, one point behind 15th-placed Zaragoza.

Struggling Malaga were one of the busiest clubs in the January transfer window but have lost three on the trot to slip to the foot of the standings. They visit Sevilla on Sunday.

"Psychologically it's difficult to be bottom, but we know what we have to do. We need to be stronger as a team, starting from the back, and try to concede fewer goals," Brazil midfielder Julio Baptista told sports daily AS.


SHARES
comments