Kaka hoping to be back after Christmas

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

Real Madrid playmaker Kaka is close to making his return to the playing fields four months after surgery on his left knee.

"I'm keen to return and I hope, if all goes well, I'll be back playing again after the Christmas break," the Brazil international told reporters.

Jose Mourinho's side, who are two points behind leaders Barcelona, host 11th-placed Sevilla on Sunday when Karim Benzema is expected to lead the line again in the absence of the injured Gonzalo Higuain.

Sevilla have lost Argentine winger Diego Perotti to a torn muscle for three weeks while striker Frederic Kanoute and winger Jesus Navas are doubts.

Brazil striker Luis Fabiano returned to action against Borussia Dortmund after injury midweek and is expected to start up front.

Barca visit city rivals Espanyol on Saturday but one visiting player likely to receive a warm reception from home fans will be the scorer of Spain's World Cup final winner, Andres Iniesta.

After scoring his goal the midfielder pulled off his shirt to reveal a vest with a dedication to Espanyol's former captain Dani Jarque, who died of heart failure last year aged 26.

"Iniesta has demonstrated that he is a true champion, this was a magnificent gesture," Espanyol's leading scorer Pablo Osvaldo said. "Our fans should recognise this because in football we are all colleagues regardless of allegiances."

Villarreal will be defending their unbeaten home record against Real Mallorca on Saturday without Spain defender Carlos Marchena, who has been ruled out for a month with a muscle tear.

"Everyone is really motivated to play us now because we are third in La Liga," said Spain goalkeeper Diego Lopez. "After so many players left (in the summer) no one expected us to be in such a good position."

Atletico Madrid's defence of their Europa League title ended prematurely with a draw away to Bayer Leverkusen on Thursday, and the sixth-placed side are back in action at struggling Malaga.

"It's a big blow but we have to keep fighting for our other objectives," Uruguay striker Diego Forlan told reporters. "It's very important we win on Sunday now to close on the Champions League qualification places."

Javier Aguirre is still seeking his first win in charge of bottom club Real Zaragoza since taking the helm last month, and has his fifth attempt away to Osasuna on Sunday.

Zaragoza have not won away all season.