MADRID - Brief news from La Liga ahead of this weekend's matches:
Prolific Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo, who has netted 10 goals in his last four league outings, has no explanation for his recent spectacular scoring run and says he feels exactly the same as last season.
"I am the same as always, the same as last year," he told Marca TV. "I feel good, I feel that I am helping the team and the team is helping me."
Real coach Jose Mourinho gave his players the day off after Wednesday's 2-2 Champions League draw at AC Milan, which secured qualification for the last 16.
Unbeaten Real top La Liga on 23 points from nine matches ahead of Sunday's Madrid derby against Atletico, potentially their first genuine test of the season after matches against mainly mid to lower table opposition so far.
Champions Barcelona are a point adrift in second and play at Getafe earlier on Sunday.
Atletico's 2-1 Europa League win at Norwegian champions Rosenborg on Thursday, which put the holders within reach of qualification from Group B, will lift the team for the derby, coach Quique Sanchez Flores said.
"The players will see that we have almost got through the group and that will boost their confidence for the clash on Sunday," he said at a news conference.
Atletico's Uruguay striker Diego Forlan had been off colour since finishing joint top scorer at the World Cup but was still a player who could make a difference, according to Real's Germany midfielder Mesut Ozil.
"We'll have to watch out for Diego Forlan because he is very dangerous and has a very strong shot," Ozil told Spanish radio. "But we'll try to play our game and win the match."
Real and Spain goalkeeper Iker Casillas has tipped Atletico keeper David De Gea for future success and as his possible successor for the world champions.
"He is used now to being at a very good level and every mistake will be minutely examined," World Cup-winner Casillas said at a news conference.
"But I think we can rest easy because we'll have a keeper for a good while. I am sure he'll give a lot of pleasure to the Atletico fans and also in the national team."
Barca striker David Villa, who signed for 40 million euros from Valencia in the close season, ended his month-long La Liga goal drought with a double against Sevilla last weekend.
"They did not sign me to be the top scorer but so Barca as a team would be better," Villa, who like Forlan hit five goals at the World Cup, told a news conference. "The most important thing is that Barca is scoring goals not me."
Villa's Barca and Spain team mate Xavi, who has been suffering from Achilles trouble but should be available for the Getafe on Sunday, needs special care, according to his Spain team-mate Gerard Pique.
"He's not at 100 percent and we have to protect and look after him as he is a vitally important part of the team," Pique said at a news conference on Thursday.
Former Real Madrid coach Manuel Pellegrini, who was replaced by Jose Mourinho at the end of last season, said he was happy to be back in Spain after being appointed late on Thursday to replace the sacked Jesualdo Ferreira as manager of Malaga.
"There is a lot of excitement here about undertaking an important project," the Chilean told a news conference. "We'll get to know each other day by day and see what improvements can be made."
Pellegrini, who has signed a three-year contract with the struggling Andalusian club, will travel to Barcelona for Saturday's match against Espanyol but will not be sitting on the bench.
Sevilla and Spain winger Jesus Navas came through his ankle operation successfully and should return to action in around six weeks, the club's doctor said on Thursday.
Sevilla, who were thumped 5-0 away at Barca last weekend and slipped to eighth, host fourth-placed Valencia on Monday.comments