MADRID (Reuters) - Barcelona captain Carles Puyol has his heart set on a return to action before the end of the season, club doctors said on Saturday after the defender suffered another injury setback.
The 34-year-old Spanish international had arthroscopic surgery on the cartilage in his right knee on Friday and the surgeons Ramon Cugat and Ricard Pruna refused to name a date for his possible return.
He is almost certain to miss both legs of the Champions League quarter-final against Paris St Germain in the first two weeks of April.
"He will set his own recovery time. It could be a month-and-a-half, two or three," Cugat told a news conference.
Pruna said: "He has been carrying this problem since October, and the game at Getafe. It hasn't gone away.
"He said he couldn't stand it anymore, and he wanted to use the break for internationals to try and be in top shape for the end of the season.
"If he didn't do it now there was a risk it could get worse."
Cugat joked about Puyol's enthusiasm to return, saying that in the operating theatre the defender had repeatedly said: "We start the recovery tonight."
Barca's inspirational leader has suffered a series of injuries over the last year.
He missed Spain's triumph at Euro 2012 after having surgery on the same knee last May, and fractured his cheekbone in Barca's second league outing at Osasuna in August.
Twisted ligaments in his left knee sidelined him again in September, and Puyol then dislocated his left elbow in October.
Combined with a string of minor complaints, he has featured in only 13 La Liga games in the current campaign, but is well known for making rapid recoveries from injuries.
"With a normal person you would say leave it a few months until it is better; with Puyol it could be four, six or eight weeks," Cugat said.
Pruna added: "There is a chance he could be back in time for (the Champions League) final (on May 25). We would all be pleased if that were the case because it would mean we had reached the final."
Puyol's absence leaves Barca short at the back again with converted midfielder Javier Mascherano and Spain's Gerard Pique as their first-choice centre-back pairing.
Midfielders Sergio Busquets, and the little-used Alex Song could step in when required, while versatile full-back Adriano Correia has also deputised in the centre.
(Reporting by Mark Elkington, editing by Clare Fallon)