Tito Vilanova will be missing Carles Puyol and Gerard Piqué for the next few games. That means a complete reworking of his back line, but not for the first time in recent years, and the team has such strength in depth that it has generally managed quite nicely without its two most experienced centre backs. Since 2008, when Piqué signed for Barça, the duo have been absent for 24 matches, and of those, FC Barcelona have won 71% (17 wins, three draws and four losses).
No defeat for two years
The stats show that defeats made up a mere 17%, but that figure is even more impressive when we analyse the circumstances. Two of the defeats came in the 2008/09 league season against Osasuna and Mallorca, when the title had already been secured, and the Supercup match at the start of the 2010/11 season was against Sevilla, in which Barça were missing all of its Spanish internationals and fielded Sergi Gómez and Milito in the middle of the defence. Two years have passed since then, and the only other defeat without Puyol and Piqué, and the only one without an ‘excuse’, was in the Copa del Rey, again against Sevilla (1-2), in the 2009/10 season.
Wins against Porto and Arsenal
Some of the wins have come in important matches, such as the European Supercup against Porto (2-0) a year ago and the crunch Champions League second round match in 2010/11 against Arsenal (3-1). Last year, like this coming weekend, Barça faced Granada without Puyol or Piqué, and won at Los Cármenes thanks to a Xavi goal (0-1).
Song, Bartra and Busquets, first choices
With the two Catalans out, Tito Vilanova has a number of options to provide a partner for Mascherano, who has already played five games this season and seems an automatic choice for the position. Against Spartak, the coach went for Alex Song. The Cameroonian has played in this position before, but needs time to adapt to the way Barça’s back four pushes so far up the field. Marc Bartra is more used to that system, while there is a third option in Titol.
Otherwise, there is always Sergio Busquets, who filled in at centre back a couple of seasons ago, while Fontàs, who has not been used in any games so far, could also do the job.