MADRID - Brief news from the Primera Liga ahead of this weekend's matches:
Real Madrid forward Gonzalo Higuain has recovered from a bout of tonsilitis which sidelined the Argentine for a week and should be available for the champions' trip to Real Mallorca on Sunday.
Coach Juande Ramos will likely have 23 squad players available, with only Dani Parejo and Guti possible absentees, the club said on their website, as they seek a third straight Primera Liga win.
Real defender Sergio Ramos said it was the right decision to bring in Juande Ramos to replace former coach Bernd Schuster last month and the squad was happy with the switch.
"It was time for a change in attitude for everyone," the Spain international told reporters. "The new coach is demanding more from us and I think the team is responding and working to achieve its objectives."
Valencia defender Miguel Monteira has apologised for his aggression toward match officials following his sending off in Wednesday's King's Cup match against Racing Santander.
"I was upset because I felt helpless and it was not a foul but nothing justifies my reaction," he said on the club's website. "I want to apologise to the referee and his assistant for getting angry and for having said some things I regret."
Valencia midfielder David Albelda said victory against Villarreal in the local derby at the Mestalla on Saturday was imperative so the club can open up a seven-point gap in the table over one of their main rivals.
"It's an important match in terms of stretching out a lead," he said on the club's website. "I am just focusing on the win and I'll be happy with 1-0."
Villarreal coach Manuel Pellegrini said the club has a good enough squad to beat Valencia despite losing striker Nihat Kahveci to injury and midfielder Marcos Senna to suspension.
"This is something that has happened before and it's up to those coming in to play at the level we expect from them," he told the club's website.
Barcelona midfielder Aleksandr Hleb is still recovering from a ankle injury and the Belarussian missed training again on Thursday, the club said on their website.
French defender Eric Abidal has flu and will rest until Saturday, the club added, suggesting he will be unavailable for the leaders' match at bottom side Osasuna on Sunday.
Osasuna's Iranian midfielder Javad Nekounam said he and his teammates will not be targeting in-form Barcelona forward Lionel Messi as the Pamplona-based club seek to avoid a ninth defeat in 18 matches.
"We are not thinking about any individual player," he told the club's website. "A player cannot do anything on his own. We are playing on our home pitch and you cannot beat us easily, whichever team you are."
Sevilla defender Jose Angel Crespo said the squad is not affected by recent fan criticism of coach Manolo Jimenez ahead of Saturday's match at Deportivo Coruna, who they beat 2-1 in their King's Cup last 16, first leg clash on Wednesday.
"We are not thinking about that, but simply about getting the win on Saturday," he told the club's website.
Atletico Madrid will be missing suspended defenders John Heitinga and Luis Perea as well as midfielder Paulo Assuncao for Sunday's match against Athletic Bilbao at the Vicente Calderon (1600), the club said.
All three players were booked in the 3-1 defeat to Valencia at the Mestalla last weekend.
Atletico President Enrique Cerezo said fans who called for coach Javier Aguirre to be sacked following Tuesday's 3-1 King's Cup first leg defeat to Barcelona are not being fair.
"It's not right that they are calling for the head of Javier Aguirre when we are one of the teams taking part in a lot of competitions," he said on the club's website. "We have a magnificent team, some sensational players and a good coach."comments