Vilanova: Barça and Real can't surprise each other
Barcelona coach Tito Vilanova is confident his younger players can step in and breach the holes in his defence caused by injuries. The Catalans were already missing Gerard Pique against Benfica because of a foot injury, and he has now been joined on the sidelines by Carles Puyol, who dislocated his elbow in the 2-0 victory on Tuesday evening.
It was the one downside to an otherwise satisfying result for Barça, who made it two wins from two in UEFA Champions League Group G thanks to goals either side of half-time by Alexis Sanchez and Cesc Fabregas. With Barcelona facing Real Madrid in El Clásico this weekend, Puyol's injury could not have come at a worse time, but Vilanova is hopeful the team can patch up the gaps.
He said: "I've always said it, we've always had problems with our central defenders, but we'll move forward. It's not just that we've lost Puyol for El Clásico on Sunday, but we've lost him for other matches as well.
"The injuries mean we will have to play players in positions that aren't their own, but we'll use our youth players, that's why we have them."
Vilanova believes last night's European victory stands them in good stead for the upcoming meeting with rivals Real.
"I think we're coming into the match on form, at the moment we're playing at a good level, even though I would like to be able to call on all of my players for a match like this," he told the club's official website.
"It means nothing that we have an eight-point advantage over them [in La Liga]. We've played against each other so many times that it's impossible for us to surprise Madrid or for Madrid to surprise us."
Mascherano praises Barça performance, rues Puyol injury
Defender Javier Mascherano was also pleased with the performance against Benfica, which saw them extend their unbeaten start to the season across all competitions.
"We played against an intense team, they pressured us quite a bit and they have quality players," said the Argentinian. "We scored a goal in the first half and that calmed us down. We could have scored more [in the first half] and we finally did in the second.
"Puyol's injury is really bad news. He's the captain, a fantastic player, and a man that brings a lot to the group and the team. Now he's picked up another injury, but hopefully we can have him back with us soon."
Despite that loss, Mascherano is confident Barcelona can see off their fierce rivals: "We're coming into El Clásico on form."