MADRID - Brief news from La Liga ahead of this weekend's matches:
Leaders Barcelona must emerge stronger after Wednesday's exit from the King's Cup at the hands of Sevilla, their opponents at the Nou Camp on Saturday, according to captain Carles Puyol.
"Nobody likes being knocked out of any competition and it's no consolation that we lost to a team as good as Sevilla," Puyol said on Barca's website.
"Now we must fight harder than ever for La Liga and the Champions League."
The Barca players should not be driven by feelings of revenge against the Andalusians, whom they are playing for the third time in less than a fortnight after the two-legged Cup tie, coach Pep Guardiola said.
"It's not good to go in to these matches in a spirit of revenge seeking," he told a news conference on Friday. "I believe you have to play with a cool head."
Sevilla, who have slipped to fifth after a poor league run, know how difficult it is to beat Barca at the Nou Camp but coach Manolo Jimenez is confident of scoring another success if his players can show some consistency.
"If we were able to knock them out (of the Cup) we can do it again but we know that they are very strong," Jimenez told a news conference on Friday. "We have shown that we can beat anyone, but also that we can lose to anyone."
Real Madrid, two points behind Barca after 17 games, have Spain defender Sergio Ramos and France midfielder Lassana Diarra back for Saturday's trip to Athletic Bilbao after they were suspended for last weekend's 2-0 win over Real Mallorca.
Spain midfielder Xabi Alonso has shaken off a knock sustained against Mallorca and is fit, but strikers Gonzalo Higuain and Ruud van Nistelrooy, midfielder Rafael van der Vaart and defender Pepe are all out with injuries.
Real will have to be at their best to contain the aerial threat posed by Athletic strikers Fernando Llorente and Gaizka Toquero at Bilbao's hostile San Mames stadium, defender Ezequiel Garay said.
"Their supporters create a lot of pressure and they are a team with a very direct style, with players who are very good in the air," Garay said in an interview with Marca sports daily published on Friday
Third-placed Valencia, who are six points behind Real, and Villarreal, in 10th, are both looking to put their mid-week elimination from the King's Cup behind them when they meet at the Mestalla on Sunday.
"By chance we both had traumatic exits and this gives an extra spice to the match," Villarreal coach Ernesto Valverde said at a news conference.
"We were left with a bad taste in our mouths but we can turn the situation around with a victory in front of our own fans," his Valencia counterpart, Unai Emery, told a separate news conference.
Villarreal were knocked out of the Cup by second-division Celta Vigo and Valencia fell to La Liga rivals Deportivo La Coruna.
Atletico Madrid coach Quique Sanchez Flores warned his players not to get too carried away after they overturned a 3-0 first-leg deficit to beat second-division Recreativo Huelva 5-4 on aggregate and qualify for the last eight of the King's Cup.
Atletico have climbed to 11th in the standings after a woeful start to the campaign and the sacking of Abel Resino and host ninth-placed Sporting Gijon on Sunday.
"My players are euphoric but we must leave the celebrations to the fans," he told a news conference after Thursday's game. "We already need to start thinking about the match against Sporting, which will not be easy and we must be on our guard."comments