CARLES Puyol’s dislocated elbow will keep him out of action for about two months and means Barcelona coach Tito Vilanova faces another unwelcome defensive conundrum, not only for the Champions League double-header against Celtic, but also Sunday’s La Liga “clasico” at home to Real Madrid.
In his first game back after a knee injury, Puyol landed heavily in the second half of Tuesday’s 2-0 Champions League Group G victory at Benfica and the La Liga club said he would be sidelined for about eight weeks. The 34-year-old, whose regular central defensive partner Gerard Pique has not played since hurting his foot two weeks ago, was taken to hospital for checks before flying back to Barcelona.
He spent the night under observation in a clinic and appeared in good spirits yesterday morning. “Good day! The sun always comes out again… thanks for all your messages! A big hug,” he wrote on his Twitter feed.
Barça will sorely miss Puyol’s experience and inspirational do-or-die attitude on Sunday and, if Pique does not recover in time, Vilanova may be forced to deploy new signing Alex Song alongside fellow converted midfielder Javier Mascherano.
Neither were convincing in Barça’s 3-2 comeback win at Sevilla in La Liga at the weekend and Song has yet to settle after joining from Arsenal in the close season.
Vilanova said: “I have always said it, we have always had problems in central defence but we will get through it.”
Barça had been forced to “convert players into positions which are not theirs”, he said, but could potentially count on “homegrown players, which is what we have them for”.
Puyol’s injury took some shine off yet another victory for Vilanova’s men, who have won all eight of their matches in La Liga and the Champions League this season.
Andres Iniesta, who returned from Spain duty last month with a muscle strain, showed his fitness by replacing Cesc Fabregas for the final 20 minutes of the game against Benfica.
Forward David Villa, who suffered a broken leg in December, came off the bench to score the winner at Sevilla and looks to be returning to his best form.