Puyol and Pique out of Granada game

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

Barcelona coach Tito Vilanova has a defensive headache when the leaders host Granada on Saturday, with Spain centre-backs Carles Puyol (knee) and Gerard Pique (foot) both sidelined by injury.

Vilanova may deploy midfielders Sergio Busquets or Alex Song as makeshift central defenders to partner Javier Mascherano and he also has the option of throwing youngsters Marc Bartra or Andreu Fontas into the fray.

Barca's World Player of the Year Lionel Messi has fond memories of Granada having netted a hat-trick against the Andalusians last season that made him the club's record scorer on 234 goals in all competitions.

The Argentina forward has since netted 29 more, 19 at the end of last term and 10 this season in only seven appearances, including two in Wednesday's 3-2 Champions League comeback win at home to Spartak Moscow.

Real Madrid have a chance to put their woeful start behind them when they travel across the capital to play Rayo Vallecano on Sunday.

Jose Mourinho's side are on a high after snatching a dramatic 3-2 Champions League win at home to Manchester City on Tuesday but that has not halted media speculation that all is not well behind the scenes.

After last weekend's 1-0 defeat at Sevilla, Mourinho left centre-back Sergio Ramos out of the City game and fellow club captain Iker Casillas failed to celebrate when Ronaldo netted the winning goal in the 90th minute.

Barca have the only perfect record in La Liga, winning all four of their games to open a two-point lead at the top ahead of Malaga on 10 points.

Real, who have already lost twice, the same number of defeats they suffered in the whole of last season, are 12th on four points.

Valencia need to shrug off Wednesday's 2-1 Champions League defeat at Bayern Munich when they visit Real Mallorca on Sunday.

Midfielder Fernando Gago, who suffered a blow to the head while on international duty with Argentina, is recovering well but the club will not take any risks by rushing him back into action and he will not be available for the trip to the Balearic Islands, doctor Jordi Candel said on Thursday.

Malaga made an impressive Champions League debut by beating Zenit St Petersburg 3-0 at the Rosaleda on Tuesday and visit stuttering Athletic Bilbao on Sunday.

Coach Manuel Pellegrini has Jeremy Toulalan available again after a leg muscle injury kept the French midfielder out of the Zenit game.

Losing finalists to Atletico Madrid last season, Bilbao had a disappointing start to their latest Europa League campaign on Thursday, drawing 1-1 at home to Israeli minnows Hapoel Ironi Kiryat Shmona.

Bilbao's Spain striker Fernando Llorente, who asked for a transfer in the summer but failed to seal a move, played his first match at the San Mames stadium this season on Thursday and was whistled by some sections of supporters.

"What is important now is not the future but helping the team," Llorente, who scored on his return to the team at Espanyol last weekend, told reporters.

Europa League champions Atletico got their bid for a third triumph in Europe's second-tier club competition in four years off to a flying start with a 3-0 win at Hapoel Tel Aviv on Thursday despite fielding an understrength team.

Diego Simeone's side, undefeated in La Liga, are fifth on seven points with a game in hand.


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