Previews: Athletic fear Real backlash
A win at Athletic Bilbao on Saturday will help second-placed Real Madrid put Tuesday's Champions League humiliation at Liverpool behind them, according to goalkeeper Iker Casillas.
"The team is down after what happened at Anfield," the Spain international said in an interview with Friday's As newspaper. "When you are hoping each year to win the European Cup and then you don't make it past the last 16 it's a bit worrying."
Midfielder Guti and central defender Fabio Cannavaro both have muscle problems and will miss the clash at the San Mames, the club said on their website.
Athletic are worried they might face a Real backlash following Liverpool's crushing 4-0 win over the Primera Liga champions, striker Fernando Llorente said.
"They will be like a wounded animal and from that point of view it won't be good for us," he told As. "For a team like Real, losing 4-0 really must have been a bitter blow."
Leaders Barcelona, who play Almeria on Sunday, are concentrating on their own game and are not worried about champions Real Madrid six points back in second, defender Daniel Alves said.
"We have to focus on our match and we know they have to go to a difficult stadium," he told a news conference. "We are the ones who have the advantage. The team is almost perfect."
Atletico Madrid forward Sergio Aguero has questioned coach Abel Resino's decision to leave striker Diego Forlan out of the starting line-up for Wednesday's goalless draw at Porto, which sealed the club's elimination from the Champions League.
"Forlan can decide a match at any moment because of his quality," As quoted the Argentina international as saying. Aguero added he would always pick Forlan together with winger Simao Sabrosa and midfielder Maxi Rodriguez.
Atletico, in seventh, host fourth-placed Villarreal on Sunday and Villarreal winger Santi Cazorla said their qualification for the last eight of the Champions League had filled the players with confidence.
"You can see the joy which the team has with the ball, something we had lost and we now have back again," the Spain international told the club's website.
Sevilla president Jose Maria del Nido said he wants Mali international striker Frederic Kanoute, 31, to round out his career at the Andalusian club, who play at fifth-placed Malaga on Sunday.
"I would like him to finish with us, but he still has a year and a half left on his contract and there is no hurry yet to negotiate a renewal," Del Nido said at a promotional event on Thursday. Sevilla are in third, seven points behind Real.
Striker Fernando Morientes said struggling Valencia badly need three points from Saturday's home match against Recreativo Huelva to help them put their miserable run and financial problems behind them.
"We need to get back the confidence and form that we saw in the first few months of the season," he told the club's website. Valencia's top scorer David Villa is sidelined with an injured knee, the club said.
Real Betis will be without injured Chilean forward Mark Gonzalez for Sunday's home match against fellow-strugglers Osasuna, the Seville-based club said on their website.
Pressure is mounting on Betis coach Paco Chaparro following the club's slide down to 16th in the standings, three points above Osasuna and the relegation places.
The Real Madrid general assembly that became necessary following irregularities at a meeting in December, which led to the resignation of Ramon Calderon as president, will take place on March 29, the club said on Friday.