Spain defender Sergio Ramos returned from injury for Real Madrid's home game against promoted Granada on Saturday, but Pepe and Angel di Maria failed to make the squad.
The Portugal defender has bruised ribs and is suspended while the Argentina winger is recovering from a thigh strain. Alvaro Arbeloa and Fabio Coentrao were left out.
Real top the standings by three points from arch-rivals Barcelona after 16 matches, as La Liga resumes after the two-week winter break.
Real coach Jose Mourinho dismissed reports that he would be prepared to sell his under-used Brazilian playmaker Kaka to big-spending Paris Saint-Germain in the January transfer window.
"I am counting on having Kaka until June and next season," Mourinho said after a training session opened to the public on Friday. "I hope no one leaves, though it is possible because the market is open."
Andres Iniesta is set to return for Barcelona, when the champions visit city rivals Espanyol on Sunday. The Spain midfielder has been sidelined with a thigh muscle injury picked up last month.
Malaga, seventh, have one eye on next week's King's Cup last 16 second leg against Real, but first have to host an Atletico Madrid side under new coach Diego Simeone on Saturday. Atletico, 10th, are direct rivals for the European places.
"Simeone has already logged some achievements as a coach, he knows Atletico very well," Malaga boss Manuel Pellegrini said. "He takes over a team which had one or two problems on the pitch, we'll have to see if his arrival changes things."
Jose Antonio Reyes was presented as a new Sevilla player on Friday after completing his drawn-out move from Atletico, and thanked the club where he started his career, for bringing him home.
"I return here with a grin from ear to ear, it is one of the happiest days of my life," Reyes told reporters. "I have changed a lot since I left [for Arsenal in 2004] but for the better."
Sevilla, sixth, visit promoted Rayo Vallecano on Sunday.
Villarreal's new coach Jose Molina debuts with a local derby at home to third-placed Valencia on Sunday as he seeks to end a run of eight matches without a win.
The side known as 'the yellow submarine', who finished fourth last season, are 17th and only kept out of the relegation places by a superior goal difference over Sporting Gijon.
La Liga's basement side Real Zaragoza last won a match in October and their new coach Manolo Jimenez starts out with a 'six-pointer' away to the side above them in 19th place, Racing Santander, on Saturday.
Zaragoza seek their first away win of the campaign at troubled Racing, who have just given their temporary coaching team led by Juan Jose Gonzalez contracts to the end of the season.
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