MADRID (AFP) - Real Madrid assistant manager Aitor Karanka rued the potential impact on their Champions League chances of injuries to Marcelo and Luka Modric in their 3-1 win over Real Betis on Saturday.
Two goals from Mesut Ozil and another from Karim Benzema stretched Real's advantage over city rivals Atletico to six points.
But Karanka's major concern was seeing the Brazilian and Croatian stars limp off ahead of Wednesday's Champions League semi-final first-leg against Borussia Dortmund.
Marcelo went off after just 15 minutes when he overstretched trying to make a clearance, whilst Modric left the field to be replaced by Pepe just after an hour.
"Marcelo has felt a strong sharp pain," Karanka told a press conference.
"Modric seems like just a strain but he said that he noticed something. The injuries have been the worst thing about the game." Brazilian midfielder Carlos Henrique Casemiro surprisingly made his debut in what was a much-changed Madrid side and Karanka was delighted with how the 21-year-old and Real Madrid Castilla teammate Nacho coped throughout.
"Casemiro is a player that has played in the first division in Brazil and has been a world champions at under-20 level. Moreover, we had players out injured and the kid has done pretty well. He has given everything.
"Nacho always comes through when we need him and in Castilla he is performing as a captain and a leader." However, the real star of the show was Ozil with his double and Karanka is hoping those goals will be the perfect boost to his confidence ahead of the meeting against his countrymen in midweek.
"We know what he is and what he can generate. He didn't play last week in Bilbao due to an injury problem and to play the whole game against Betis was important.
"Now he has time to recuperate. The goals have been good for his confidence." Barcelona though maintained their 13-point lead over Madrid and moved to within just two wins of their fourth title in five seasons thanks to a 1-0 win over Levante at the Camp Nou.
The hosts had been frustrated by the visitors' dogged defending after Keylor Navas saved David Villa's first-half penalty until Cesc Fabregas finally made the breakthrough eight minutes from time.
However, the match was just as remarkable for Eric Abidal's first start after 14 months following his liver transplant and the Frenchman's performance was so impressive that Barca assistant boss Jordi Roura said he is in contention to play against Bayern Munich on Tuesday.
"We are very happy for Abidal," he said.
"More than just the sporting aspect, it is something very nice for him, for the dressing room, for everyone to see him complete the game and look fine.
"He is a new option and alternative looking towards Tuesday. In the next few training sessions we will decide who will be paired in central defence in Munich." Roura admitted that without the injured Lionel Messi, Barca once again lacked their usual rhythm in attack.
"We have suffered a lot to win the game. This demonstrates how hard it is to win a championship.
"We had some phases in which we weren't very fluid. We could have scored early with the penalty, but we weren't able to and we have to congratulate Levante because they played a very good game defensively."