Villarreal fired up following cup win

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

Villarreal's inspiring comeback to knock Valencia out of the King's Cup was the ideal preparation for Sunday's trip to play Real Madrid, who have a 100 percent home record this season.

Juan Carlos Garrido's side are third in La Liga, eight points short of second-placed Real, and fought back from 2-0 down to beat Valencia 4-2 on Thursday.

"It will strengthen us for the coming league games," Garrido told reporters. "The team didn't abandon their philosophy despite the circumstances... in the end we showed belief and courage and played to our best."

Real rested most of their first-team regulars for the 2-0 cup defeat at Levante, having established an 8-0 first leg advantage, when Kaka came on as a substitute to make his second appearance this season.

"It gives him more confidence," Real coach Jose Mourinho told reporters. "The important thing is he finishes each test with positive sensations, without any pain in his knee or groin. He is sure to play in our next game."

Leaders Barcelona visit Deportivo La Coruna on Saturday with Brazilian defender Maxwell back in the squad after injury. They are unbeaten in 25 consecutive games in all competitions.

Fifth-placed Espanyol were knocked out of the cup by Atletico Madrid on Thursday and have failed to win in their last five outings.

They host lowly Real Zaragoza on Sunday, who are looking for their first away win of the season. Zaragoza's victory over Real Sociedad last weekend was coach Javier Aguirre's first since he took the helm in November.

Atletico midfielder Paulo Assuncao spent the night in hospital following a blow to the head during their 1-1 draw at Espanyol on Thursday.

He will return to training on Sunday in time for their trip to play Hercules on Monday, the sixth-placed club said. Striker Diego Forlan could return after recovering from an ankle injury.

Royston Drenthe is back training with Hercules and available for coach Esteban Vigo, club president Valentin Botella said, after the Dutchman on loan from Real Madrid refused to return from holiday in protest at unpaid wages.

"He is sorry for what happened. He's young and knows he has done wrong," Botella told sports daily AS. "The club have started disciplinary proceedings and he will be fined."

After a run of seven matches without a win Sevilla have strung together three consecutive victories in all competitions and visit promoted Real Sociedad on Saturday.

Their Brazilian striker Luis Fabiano became only the fifth player to score 100 goals for the club when he netted in the midweek Cup win over Malaga.

Sporting Gijon visit north-coast rivals Racing Santander on Sunday with coach Manuel Preciado under pressure having only managed two wins all season.

The 2-1 defeat at home to fellow-strugglers Malaga last time out saw them slip to the foot of the standings, and Spanish media have reported the club have been sounding out replacements.