Xavi back as Barca eye record win
Barcelona's midfield orchestrator Xavi looks set to recover from a knee problem in time to face fifth-placed Valencia on Saturday as Barca seek a record start of seven straight wins.
Xavi, who has played in all of Barca's 11 competitive matches this season, was injured on duty with Spain but returned to training on Wednesday and should feature, Barca said on their website.
The European champions have won their opening six matches on four occasions but seven straight wins would be a new best. They top the standings with a perfect 18 points, three ahead of Real Madrid and Sevilla.
Barca forward Thierry Henry has picked up a thigh injury on international duty with France and will be sidelined for about 10 days.
Henry, who scored with a penalty in his country's 3-1 win over Austria in a World Cup qualifier on Wednesday, returned to the Catalan capital for a scan on Thursday.
It revealed a small tear in his right thigh muscle. Sweden striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic sustained a blow to his right knee in their qualifier with Albania but should be fit to play.
Brazilian defender Daniel Alves said Pep Guardiola's side would be relieved if Valencia's injured striker David Villa, who has already netted six times this term, did not recover in time for the match at the Mestalla (2000 GMT).
"Villa is the one who calls the shots in attack and their main goal scorer," Alves told a news conference on Wednesday. "If he doesn't play, it will be welcome news for us as he would be a notable absence. The match at the Mestalla is always one of the most difficult of the season."
In-form Sevilla stunned a Real side missing injured record signing Cristiano Ronaldo on matchday six and their game at fourth-placed Deportivo Coruna on Saturday (1600) is a test of their championship credentials.
Ronaldo is out for up to four weeks after he aggravated an ankle sprain playing for Portugal on Saturday and will miss Real's match against Real Valladolid, also on Saturday (1800).
Real coach Manuel Pellegrini needs a convincing win after the 2-1 defeat in Sevilla and questions have been asked about the side's dependence on Ronaldo, who has scored five league goals this season.
"Cristiano is a star but we are Real Madrid," Dutch midfielder Royston Drenthe told Marca on Thursday. "Real Madrid is not just Cristiano Ronaldo, nor Kaka nor Royston Drenthe nor Raul ... we are a team. And we also know how to win matches without Cristiano."
Defender Christoph Metzelder, who damaged his left ankle in training this week, is out for seven to 10 days and midfielder Guti also has an ankle problem and is doubtful.
Spain defender Alvaro Arbeloa should be available again after injury and Lassana Diarra and Xabi Alonso are set to revive their central midfield partnership.
Sevilla striker Alvaro Negredo returns to training on Thursday on a high after his matchwinning performance for Spain against Bosnia on Wednesday, with two goals and two assists in the 5-2 win on his first ever start for the European champions.
Argentine forward Lautaro Acosta is fit again after several weeks on the sidelines and is available to coach Manolo Jimenez for the Depor match.
Villarreal, with only three points from six matches, are looking to get their season back on track at promoted Xerez and midfielder Robert Pires said he was sure the quality in the squad would help end their poor run.
"We have all that we need to be up there but we have to play with confidence," he told the club's website. "Our advantage is our experience and we have to exploit that because we have the quality and the players to succeed."