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The defender says his side must be vigilant against the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and has defended Javier Mascherano after his error against AC Milan

Barcelona captain Carles Puyol believes Real Madrid are improving with every game ahead of Saturday's first Clasico of the season.

The two Spanish giants lock horns for the first time in this season's Liga at Camp Nou, and Puyol thinks Carlo Ancelotti's side can be devastating on the counter with the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Angel Di Maria in their ranks.

"They're playing better every time. We have to be vigilant against their counterattacks - they're very fast," Puyol told a press conference.

The 35-year-old went on to defend the form of defensive partner Javier Mascherano, after the Argentine accepted the blame for Robinho's opening goal in the midweek Champions League draw with AC Milan.

"He's too demanding," Puyol said of Mascherano. "He's spent three seasons at the highest level. There are few central defenders in the world who can play like him. If we were to make a video of the number of times he has saved us, it would be very long.

"We have four defenders of the highest quality and with [Marc] Bartra we have a defender for many more years at Barca. I have always had a lot of confidence in him."

Ancelotti hinted that Diego Lopez would retain his place in goal despite Iker Casillas starting in the Champions League against Juventus on Wednesday, and Puyol conceded he was not certain whether his international team-mate would decide to stay with los Blancos in the long term.

"Madrid have two great goalkeepers and it is the coach who will decide. Iker is my friend, I don't know if he will go, I've not spoken to him about that," he added.

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