Pique and Puyol back for Barca

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

Defenders Carles Puyol and Gerard Pique have returned to the Barcelona squad after injury in time for Saturday's visit of Real Mallorca.

Pep Guardiola's side have struggled to score goals in their last two outings, drawing 0-0 at home against Sevilla and then winning 1-0 at promoted Granada, but have kept seven consecutive clean sheets in all competitions.

"Sometimes it could be a good thing to not be so precise in front of goal," Guardiola told reporters. "It may be good not to win by such huge margins because this confuses things. There is a tendency to think we will score lots of goals every game."

Barca are third in the standings, one point behind second-placed Real Madrid and two short of surprise leaders Levante.

Levante are seeking their eighth consecutive victory when they travel to Osasuna on Sunday, but are determined not to lose sight of their principle objective - avoiding relegation.

"My feet are drilled to the floor and covered in cement," Levante president Quico Catalan, 35, told sports daily As.

"If we let the euphoria get to us we'll lose our way. We are enjoying the moment knowing very well what is likely to happen in the future."

Real have Lassana Diarra back from injury for their trip to play Real Sociedad on Saturday but Turkey midfielder Nuri Sahin will have to wait a while yet for his debut.

"I don't see him ready for a few games yet," coach Jose Mourinho said. "I'm sure he would like to play tomorrow... but he has 10 years of football in front of him and we are not going to put this at risk."

Valencia midfielder Sergio Canales had surgery on a partially torn knee ligament on Friday and will be out of action for around six months, the club have said.

Sevilla striker Alvaro Negredo, who has just returned from injury, misses Monday's visit of Granada with a swelling around the same thigh problem.

Atletico Madrid's bright start to the season has evaporated. They are without a win in seven outings in all competitions, during which they have only managed two goals, ahead of the visit of Real Zaragoza on Sunday.

"I don't fear the worst, I'm only thinking of the next game," coach Gregorio Manzano told reporters when asked about his future after the 3-0 defeat at Athletic Bilbao on Thursday.

Champions League side Villarreal are two points off the foot of the standings in 18th place, have the league's worst goal difference and have lost their two leading strikers Giuseppe Rossi and Nilmar to injury.

They host promoted Rayo Vallecano on Saturday with coach Juan Carlos Garrido very much in the spotlight.

"We are all going to fight together, the president, the coach and everyone else," club president Fernando Roig said after the midweek 3-0 defeat at Real.


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