MADRID - Brief news from La Liga ahead of this weekend's matches:
Spain midfielder Xavi, who has just been shortlisted for the FIFA Ballon d'Or, returned to training with the rest of the Barcelona squad on Thursday and could feature when Sevilla visit on Saturday.
Xavi has missed Barca's last two matches to continue recovery work on his injured Achilles. Argentine defender Gabriel Milito is also back from a thigh injury.
Sevilla will have reserve goalkeeper Javi Varas in the net after first choice Andres Palop picked up a calf injury that put him out for up to 12 days. Spain winger Jesus Navas is struggling to recover from a thigh injury in time.
Sevilla's last visit to the Nou Camp, for the Spanish Super Cup second leg in late August, ended in a 4-0 defeat.
Unbeaten leaders Real Madrid travel to play promoted Hercules on Saturday, a fixture they have never lost in 19 visits, without any major injury worries.
Their hosts have French forward David Trezeguet back from suspension and Paraguayan strike partner Nelson Valdez fit again after an illness. Trezeguet and Valdez are the only Hercules players to have scored this season with four apiece.
Second-placed Villarreal, who are one point behind the leaders, visit Sporting Gijon on Sunday having made their best ever start to a top-flight campaign.
"We had the chance to go top (two weeks ago when Real drew) and it wasn't to be, but we haven't given up hope," Venezuelan striker Jefferson Montero told reporters. "If we continue the good work we'll have a chance because Real could slip up."
Atletico Madrid striker Diego Forlan, who has not scored a goal since early September, needed to be given time to recover his sharpness, president Enrique Cerezo said ahead of the visit of Almeria on Sunday.
"He has played a load of games since the start of last season and there comes a time when your body says you need a rest," he said. "He needs to recover physically and mentally to be the Forlan we all recognise again."
Basement side Real Zaragoza won their first game this season when they beat second division Real Betis 1-0 away in the King's Cup on Wednesday, giving them a lift for the trip to play fourth-placed Valencia on Saturday.
"We've been waiting a long time for a win and it will strengthen us," coach Jose Aurelio Gay said. "Hopefully it will mark a turning point."comments