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Barça's 'irreplaceable' Puyol ruled out

Barcelona defender Dani Alves has labelled injured captain Carles Puyol irreplaceable after the centre-half's confirmed absence handed Arsenal a massive boost ahead of their Champions League second-leg fixture tomorrow night.

Puyol trained with his team-mates yesterday, but Barcelona confirmed after the session that he had not recovered from the tendinitis in his left knee. "He is a unique player," said Alves. "He gives us security at the back – something that other players give us as well, but he gives it in another way. He plays with head and heart – he has that tremendous fighting spirit, but he also has the intelligence in terms of the way he positions himself."

The absence of Puyol will hand Javier Mascherano a start, with Sergio Busquets moved back into the centre of a defence already deprived of the suspended Gerard Pique.

Mascherano believes Barcelona's firepower can carry them over the line in spite of any defensive frailty. "A 1-0 would serve our purposes, but if there is one thing that you can guarantee about this team it is that it is never satisfied. We will go out and try to win the game by the biggest margin possible," he said.

Barcelona (probable): Valdes; Alves, Busquets, Abidal, Maxwell; Xavi, Mascherano, Iniesta; Pedro, Messi; Villa.