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La Liga weekend preview

Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone hopes that striker Falcao can return from injury in time for Sunday's La Liga match against Real Betis as they bid to stay above rivals Real.

Last Updated: 01/02/13 at 09:52 Post Comment

Falcao: Hoping to return against Betis

Falcao: Hoping to return against Betis

Falcao was not listed in Simeone's 18-man squad for Thursday's Copa del Rey match against Sevilla as he recovers from a thigh injury suffered on January 20.

The Colombia striker accounts for almost half of Atletico's goals this season and they are desperate to get him back with Madrid just four points behind in third place, a gap that could be cut to just one before they kick off.

But, while recognising Falcao's importance to the team, Simeone insisted he would not be rushed back.

"We can't ignore the fact that he is a very important player for the team," he said.

"The reality is that Falcao is to us what Cristiano Ronaldo is to Real Madrid or Messi to Barcelona.

"I only want players of their calibre when they are on top form and not before."

Real Madrid will look to put the pressure on by beating Granada in their match on Saturday evening.

Raphael Varane will be hoping for another chance to impress after the 19-year-old emerged from last night's 1-1 Copa del Rey semi-final first leg draw with Barcelona as the man of the match.

"I'm very happy with how I played," said the Frenchman. "For me it was incredible and to score a goal is a dream. I still cannot believe it. It is the best match I've had at Real Madrid."

Barcelona start the weekend 11 points clear at the top, but face one of the tougher assignments in the league as they travel to Valencia, who have won seven of their 11 matches at the Mestalla this season.

While Barca streak clear and the Madrid clubs scrap over second, there is still a big gap to fourth-placed Malaga, who are under pressure from four clubs below them.

They host Real Zaragoza needing a win to hold off the challenges from Betis, Rayo Vallecano, Valencia and Levante, who are all within two points below them.

While Betis and Valencia will have a tough time doing anything to close that gap given their fixtures this weekend, Levante might be more confident away to struggling Levante while Rayo travel to mid-table Sevilla.

The battle at the bottom remains just as intense, with basement-dwellers Deportivo La Coruna away to Getafe, Mallorca travelling to Real Sociedad and Osasuna hosting Celta Vigo.

Victory for either Mallorca or Osasuna - or both - could see Granada drop into the bottom three if they cannot pull off a surprise against Madrid.

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