La Liga Previews: Barca cautious of Betis
Barcelona captain Carles Puyol, who missed Spain's 2-0 friendly win over England on Wednesday with a muscle strain in his left leg, has failed to recover in time for the leaders' match at Real Betis on Saturday.
Coach Pep Guardiola otherwise has all his players back fit from international duty and midfielder Seydou Keita has shaken off an injury and is in the squad for the match in Seville, the club said on their website.
Barca have struggled against Betis at the Ruiz de Lopera in Seville over the past decade, winning only twice in nine matches and losing five, including a 3-2 defeat last season in a game they led 2-0.
"In general, Barca's track record at that stadium has been a difficult one," defender Gerard Pique told the club's website.
Real Madrid coach Juande Ramos has a full squad available for Sunday's match at Sporting Gijon with the probable exception of injured defenders Christoph Metzelder and Michel Salgado, the club said on their website.
Midfielders Guti and Daniel Parejo are both back to full fitness as second-placed Real look for an eighth consecutive win to try and reduce the 12-point gap to Barca.
Real midfielder Royston Drenthe has appealed to the club's fans to get behind him after he was whistled by the home support at the Bernabeu last month.
"I don't like to feel like I am at the Nou Camp or another rival's stadium when I am playing at home," the 21-year-old Dutchman said in an interview with Friday's Marca newspaper. "When the fans are unhappy you notice it and it makes it harder to perform well."
A scan has revealed that Sevilla forward Lautaro Acosta's ankle problem will likely sideline him for seven to 10 days, the club said on their website.
The injury means the Argentine will miss the third-placed club's trip to struggling Espanyol on Sunday.
Valencia striker David Villa said he would rather concentrate on his football than discuss the possibility of leaving the cash-strapped club, who host Malaga on Saturday.
"Nobody has told me of any plan to sell me," the Spain international was quoted as saying by As newspaper on Friday. "I am continuing to focus on my work and there is still a lot for me to achieve this year so let's see what happens," he said.
Malaga striker Salva Ballesta said all the pressure would be on fourth-placed Valencia in Saturday's clash at the Mestalla after their 1-0 defeat at Osasuna last weekend.
"We can travel there feeling relaxed while they have to win one way or the other," Ballesta said on the club's website. "If the match is not going their way, their fans will be demanding more."
Villarreal striker Giuseppe Rossi can equal Diego Forlan's club record for scoring in consecutive matches if he is on target for the fifth game in a row at Racing Santander on Sunday.
"I am excited about scoring at Racing but it won't be easy as they will make it very difficult for us," the Italian said on the fifth-placed club's website.
Forlan, now at Atletico