- Associated Press - Monday, December 15, 2014

MADRID (AP) - With defending champion Real Madrid away at the Club World Cup in Morocco, this week’s Copa del Rey fixture list puts rival challengers, including Barcelona and Atletico Madrid, in focus.

Real Madrid and Sevilla played in advance and the champions set the pace by easing past Cornella with a 9-1 victory on aggregate.

Barcelona seeks to improve on a 4-0 first-leg win at Huesca when it hosts the third-tier side at the Camp Nou on Tues., while Atletico seeks to build on its 3-0 away win against L’Hospitalet on Thurs.

Here are some things to know about this week’s round of 16 return leg Copa del Rey matches:

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MINUS DANI

Barcelona will be without Dani Alves’ defense-splitting passes that have helped Lionel Messi continue breaking goal-scoring records this season.

The club said Sunday that medical tests confirmed Alves had injured a muscle in his right leg and would not play against Huesca.

His “availability for future matches” would be determined by the evolution of his injury, a club statement said.

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STOPPING THE ROT

Top tier side Celta Vigo started the season well, losing only one of 11 matches, and upset Barcelona by winning 1-0 at the Camp Nou on Nov. 1.

Then Celta lost five in a row, including a 2-1 defeat at second-division Las Palmas.

Celta has gone six games without a win and Argentine coach Eduardo Berizzo will hope to stop the rot when his side hosts the Canary Island club on Tues.

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BEST BEHAVIOUR

Atletico coach Diego Simeone will hope his team returns to winning ways at home after losing 1-0 to Villarreal in the league at the weekend, his first defeat there since May 12, 2013, when Barcelona won 2-1.

The rreigning Spanish league champion Atletico will be on its best behaviour as it hosts minnows L’ Hospitalet.

A large police presence is expected at the Vicente Calderon after a Deportivo La Coruna supporter died following violent clashes between radical fans outside the stadium on Nov. 30.

L’ Hospitalet is a working class suburb of Barcelona.

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IMPROVING FITNESS

Coach David Moyes is beginning to see some effects from the extended training sessions he introduced at Real Sociedad when he arrived and said he thought the squad looked unfit.

So far, Moyes has coached his team to one victory, two draws and one defeat, 4-0 at Villarreal.

Sociedad managed a first-leg 0-0 draw at Oviedo, which is top of its group in Spain’s Segunda B league.

Moyes’ team missed a chance to win the Basque derby on Sunday, dropping its performance level in the second half to allow rival Athletic Bilbao an equalizer in a 1-1 draw.

“There are a lot of things we want to improve, not just the physical part and the intensity, but also the passing and control of the game,” Moyes said. “I think the players are trying really, really hard.”

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