MADRID, Dec. 7 (Xinhua) -- Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane will have to overcome the loss of key players in defense as his side takes on Sevilla in matchday 15 of the Liga Santander with both sides aiming to pressure Barcelona, who have a tough trip to face Villarreal.
Rafael Varane's muscle injury suffered in the Champions League on Wednesday leaves Zidane with a major defensive headache. Varene isn't the only Madrid defender to miss Saturday's game as Sergio Ramos and Dani Carvajal are suspended, while Jesus Vallejo is also doubtful with a muscle problem he suffered on Tuesday.
Defensive midfielder Casemiro is also banned after picking up his fifth booking of the campaign and Zidane will have to either drop Marcos Llorente into his back four or look to the B-team for someone to partner Nacho Fernandez in the defense.
There is still no news on whether or not Gareth Bale will be fit for a vital game against a Sevilla side that is fifth in the table level on points with Real Madrid and eight points behind FC Barcelona.
Barca don't play until late on Sunday and face a difficult trip to face Villarreal, who have lost their last two matches.
Barca boss Ernesto Valverde has defensive worries of his own with injuries to Javier Mascherano and Samuel Umtiti leaving him with Gerard Pique and Thomas Vermaelen as his only fit center halves until the start of 2018.
Second place Valencia still have injury issues as they take on Celta Vigo on Saturday. Goncalo Guedes, Ezequiel Garay and Jeison Murillo are sidelined for the visit of a Celta side that seems to be improving week by week and who last weekend took a well-deserved point from the Camp Nou against Barca.
Coach Marcelino Lopez is back in the Valencia dugout after suspension and needs a reaction after last weekend's first defeat of the season, which came away to Getafe.
Atletico Madrid were the big winners of matchday 14 and could move temporarily to within three points of Barcelona if they can win away to Betis who have just one win in their last 8 matches, during which they have shipped an alarming 21 goals to pile the pressure on coach Quique Setien in the wake of last weekend' s defeat to Las Palmas.
Las Palmas visit Alaves on Friday night with both sides knowing a win would lift them out of the relegation zone.
Saturday also sees Getafe entertain Eibar, who have won their last three games and are starting to look more like the side that impressed so much in the past two seasons, while Leganes can build on last week's win against Villarreal if they can take something from Deportivo la Coruna, who will kick off in the bottom three if either Las Palmas or Alaves win on Friday.
Sunday begins with Real Sociedad looking to cure defensive problems at home to bottom of the table Malaga, whose mini-recovery has stumbled in the last two weeks, while Athletic Club Bilbao look for their first win in seven weeks away to Levante, who are solid on the road, but struggle to control games at home.
The round of matches ends on Monday with a Catalan derby between Espanyol and Girona.