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FOTO: ARCHIVE FCB

The best of Puyol is back. Now that his injury is behind him, which sidelined him for a half a year, the centre back is back on top form and once again playing a key role in Guardiola's plans. He has started the last eight games, since the cup return leg against Real Madrid (2-2) through to the 5-1 win over Valencia. Only Messi, with eight starts, has a longer record.

Versatility and guarantee

There is nothing unusual about Puyol starting games, but he rarely plays as many as eight without some kind of rest in between, as is the case with most players. But the fact that he can also play at left back means he is useful cover for Alves when he's out, which has led him to start 16 of the last 18 games. These have resulted in 11 wins, 5 draws and just one defeat, the one that marked the end of a run of 56 matches unbeaten with Puyol in the side.

Three and a half years ago

Puyol hasn't played so many consecutive games since the run between the end of 2007/08 and the start of 2008/09. He played the last six games under Rijkaard (Deportivo, Manchester United, Valencia, Real Madrid, Mallorca and Murcia) and the first six of the Guardiola era (Wisla, Wisla, Numancia, Racing, Sporting Gijón and Sporting Lisbon). In total, 12 games in a row. Can he equal that number this time?

8 first team appearances

Cup. FCB-Madrid (2-2)
Liga. Vila-real-FCB (0-0)
Cup. Valencia-FCB (1-1)
Liga. FCB-R. Sociedad (2-1)
Cup. FCB-Valencia (2-0)
Liga. Osasuna-FCB (3-2)
Champions. Bayer-FCB (1-3)
Liga. FCB-Valencia (5-1)

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