MADRID - Brief news from La Liga ahead of this weekend's matches:
Atletico Madrid need a victory at champions Barcelona on Saturday to get their season up and running, Argentina midfielder Maxi Rodriguez said on the club's website.
"If we beat Barca it will give the team a huge boost," he said of a side that has picked up just one point from their opening two games. "We have to lift our heads, believe in ourselves and win." Barca won the fixture 6-1 last season before losing 4-3 to Atletico in a dramatic match at the Calderon.
The match at the Nou Camp will probably be more open than Wednesday's Champions League goalless draw at Inter Milan given Atletico's poor start to the season, said Barca midfielder Xavi.
"Historically these have always been attractive games with a lot of goals," Xavi said on the club's website. "They are in an unexpected situation so I imagine a more open match."
Barca coach Pep Guardiola hopes captain Carles Puyol will sign a contract extension as soon as possible.
"I hope he remains with the club for many years," Guardiola said at a news conference. "He's a defender that gives me a lot of options and I would be very pleased if he renewed."
Real Madrid defender Pepe misses the ninth game of his 10-match La Liga ban against Xerez.
The Portuguese was punished after he lost his cool and lashed out at two Getafe players during a match near the end of last season.
Promoted Xerez officially presented midfielder Fabian Orellana during the week but the Chile international will not be available to play until September 22, the club said. Xerez, playing in Spain's top flight for the first time, have applied to the Spanish sports council (CSD) for special clearance for the player, who suffers from asthma, to be able to use the banned stimulant Salbutamol. Shunsuke Nakamura is a doubt for Espanyol ahead of their match away to Deportivo Coruna on Saturday. The Japan midfielder is struggling with a lingering left ankle injury picked up while on international duty last week.
Sevilla must forget the fact that they have not won at Osasuna for more than 15 years when they travel to play the Pamplona-based side on Saturday, coach Manolo Jimenez said.
"We have to ignore this statistic and forget about all the years we have been unable to win there," Jimenez said at a news conference. Brazilian striker Luis Fabiano has an ankle problem and is unavailable.
Sevilla's Ivory Coast trio Didier Zokora, Arouna Kone and Ndri Romaric missed Thursday's training session because they had to travel to Madrid to sort out visa issues related to the club's Champions League campaign.
The three had to train alone on their return, the Andalucians said on their website.
Athletic Bilbao are enjoying fine early season form and Sunday's match at the San Mames will be a stiff test, Villarreal coach Ernesto Valverde said.
"You have to play with heart at the San Mames and defend strongly," Valverde, a former Athletic player and assistant coach, said at a news conference. Athletic have won their opening two matches and are tied for the lead with Barca, Real and Valencia. Midfielder Angel Lafita has passed a medical with Real Zaragoza but still cannot complete his transfer or play until the club's dispute with Deportivo Coruna over the fee has been resolved.
The league have backed Zaragoza, but Depor are to appeal.comments