La Liga weekend preview

Atletico Madrid have resolved to be "stronger than ever" against Almeria as they seek to bounce back from their cup defeat to Real Madrid in midweek.

Last Updated: 07/02/14 at 12:29 Post Comment

Atletico Madrid: Hoping to bounce back from defeat in the cup

Atletico Madrid: Hoping to bounce back from defeat in the cup

The Rojiblancos slipped to a 3-0 defeat to Real in the first leg of their Copa del Rey semi-final at the Bernabeu but return to Primera Division action on Saturday night determined to at least maintain their three-point advantage over their city rivals and Barcelona.

Defender Juanfran said after the Real defeat: "We must always look at the positive side of everything, especially the defeats, and we believe that the team will come out stronger than ever and we will win because we want to continue in the league as we are."

Filipe looks set to miss out again for Atletico with a hamstring problem, while striker David Villa is sidelined by a similar problem.

Almeria skipper Corona is under no illusions about the challenge facing his side.

"Atletico Madrid are currently the best team in the league - they have shown that by being the leader after 22 rounds of the championship," he said in quotes carried on Atletico's website.

Atletico's rivals Real face Villarreal in the Primera Division on Saturday, while Barcelona, who start the weekend in second, are away to Sevilla.

Barca coach Gerardo Martino insists he is not concerned that star striker Lionel Messi was not find able to find the net in the midweek Copa del Rey victory over Real Sociedad

He added: "I'm not worried about Messi scoring goals. He had three clear chances, and one of them the goalkeeper saved from point-blank range - he'll score again soon."

At the other end of the table, Rayo Vallecano forward Alberto Bueno has urged his team to make their ground El Estadio de Vallecas a fortress again, beginning on Saturday against Malaga.

Of the 10 home games Paco Jemez's side have played this season, they have won just two and lost the remaining eight, in stark contrast with last season in which they picked up 30 points in Vallecas.

Bueno told a press conference: "Normally teams that are near the bottom of the league produce strong performances at home.

"This year we haven't been able to do that unfortunately, and we have to start doing it from now until the end of the season, because we are up against direct rivals."

Elsewhere, striker Nino is desperate to get back into the action and help Osasuna find success on the field after recovering from an injury which almost spelled an end to his time at the club.

The 33-year-old is back in training after recovering from an anterior cruciate ligament injury to his right knee and is hoping to get some game time at home to Getafe on Sunday.

"I feel strengthened by all that's happened, because I've had the support of everyone," he said in a press conference.

"I'm already back into the swing of things in training sessions, so now all I'm lacking is minutes in games, which I hope will come soon."

Real Betis coach Gabriel Calderon has lifted spirits and provided renewed optimism that the team can avoid relegation since taking over at the helm, according to defender Jordi Figueras.

Betis may be bottom of the Primera Division and still eight points from safety, but they have been buoyed by last weekend's dramatic 2-0 win over Espanyol - their first league win since September ahead of their match against Valencia.

"The win has allowed us to take a very important step in terms of team spirit," Figueras told reporters.

"Before Calderon arrived, our spirits were very low. From day one he told us that he wanted us to be happier and with smiles on our faces again. He said that was the only way we'd start winning.

In the other games, Athletic Bilbao travel to Celta Vigo while Elche are away at Real Valladolid, Espanyol host Granada and Levante make the trip to Real Sociedad.

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