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Ronaldo likely to recover for Valencia game


MADRID (Reuters) -- Brief news from La Liga ahead of this weekend's matches: (All times GMT):

* Cristiano Ronaldo is likely to make Real Madrid's home clash with Valencia on Saturday (2100), after pulling out of Spain/Portugal's bid presentation for the 2018 World Cup finals to focus on recovery from a bruised right ankle.

Gonzalo Higuain's back injury means French striker Karim Benzema will get another chance to improve on his one La Liga goal so far this season.

Spain duo Raul Albiol and Alvaro Arbeloa will probably step in for suspended defenders Sergio Ramos and Ricardo Carvalho.

* Real's 5-0 'Clasico' defeat in Barcelona on Monday has not done Valencia any favours, veteran midfielder David Albelda said on Friday.

"It will be worse for us." he told sports daily AS. "Seeing their record at the Bernabeu (Real have won every game) it's difficult to find a match where they have scored less than three goals."

Valencia will probably have to use third-choice goalkeeper Vicente Guaita, with Cesar and Miguel Angel Moya struggling with injuries.

* Lionel Messi missed Barcelona training on Thursday with a bruised left ankle, but is expected to be fit for Saturday's trip to play Osasuna (1900), who have yet to lose a home game this season.

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"They are very tough and they never stop running, but we aren't worried about their physical approach. It'll be a great game," Barca forward Jeffren told reporters.

* Sevilla lost their third game in a row when they went down 4-2 at Paris St-Germain in the Europa League and they will need to improve at the back on Sunday (1800) against third-placed Villarreal, who are unbeaten at the Madrigal.

"We have made mistakes in three consecutive games now, but we have quality in the side. Everyone was happy with the defence a few weeks ago and they remain good players," striker Frederic Kanoute told reporters.

* Atletico Madrid travel to promoted Levante on Saturday (1700) looking for a lift after consecutive home defeats, the most recent to Aris Salonika that left them on the brink of elimination from the Europa League.

"We have a great squad and we are capable of turning this round. All we need to do is win on Saturday," winger Jose Antonio Reyes told reporters. "We aren't doing well bit it isn't all bad either."

* Promoted Real Sociedad are relishing the visit of near neighbours Athletic Bilbao on Sunday (2000) and the first Basque derby in four years has already sold out their 32,000 seat Anoeta stadium.

"It's the best game of the year," La Real striker Joseba Llorente told reporters. "We're in good form. We'll go for them and will be snapping at their heels. We have to run and run and run."

* La Liga's bottom two meet when Real Zaragoza visit Almeria on Sunday (1600). Zaragoza's new coach Javier Aguirre takes on Almeria's new boss Jose Luis Oltra in a battle between a side without an away win, and hosts who have yet to win at home.