Real still waiting for Di Maria return

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

La Liga leaders Real Madrid make the short trip to Getafe in the south of the capital on Saturday still waiting for Angel di Maria to return from injury.

The Argentina winger has not played since the turn of the year as he has struggled with a thigh problem, though he joined the rest of the group for training on Friday.

"He has had a little problem and it is best to wait. Until he is 100 percent he will not return," Real's assistant coach Aitor Karanka told reporters on Friday.

Marcelo failed to make the squad with a thigh strain while Sami Khedira is still laid low with twisted ankle ligaments. Sergio Ramos returns from suspension in defence.

Getafe are unbeaten in six games and have an impressive record against their more illustrious neighbours at the Coliseum, where they have three wins and one draw against Real from the seven seasons they have been in La Liga.

"It's always tough to play there," Real midfielder and former Getafe player Esteban Granero told the club website. "They always make life very difficult for us."

Barcelona are seven points adrift of Real in second place and host Real Sociedad on Saturday with one eye on next week's King's Cup semi-final second leg at home to Valencia. They drew 1-1 at the Mestalla on Wednesday.

With David Villa, Andres Iniesta and Pedro injured coach Pep Guardiola will hope to have Alexis Sanchez back from his shoulder injury to help Lionel Messi with goal-scoring duties up front.

Former Arsenal midfielder Fran Merida has returned to Atletico Madrid from a loan spell at Braga and spoke of the changed atmosphere at the club under new coach Diego Simeone, and a run of one draw and three wins since he arrived.

"There is a greater intensity in the play, there is more union and everyone is pulling in the same direction," Merida said ahead of Sunday's visit of third-placed Valencia.

Under-presure Sevilla boss Marcelino sought to play down stories of a rift between him and Mali striker Frederic Kanoute after what appeared to be a training ground bust up during the week.

"I have no problems with Freddy... those who have been saying we had a fight, that he didn't want to train, that I kicked him out of the session, it isn't true," Marcelino said on Friday ahead of the visit of Villarreal on Sunday.

Sporting Gijon sacked Manuel Preciado, who had been La Liga's longest serving coach, during the week and his number two Inaki Tejada takes the reins for Sunday's visit of Osasuna.

New striker Adrian Colunga could make his debut as they seek to end a run of six defeats in eight games that has left them 19th in the standings.


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