Barcelona head into Saturday's clash with Celta Vigo boosted by the return of coach Tito Vilanova
Barcelona head into Saturday's clash with Celta Vigo boosted by the return of coach Tito Vilanova.
Last Updated: 29/03/13 8:27am
Barcelona head into Saturday's clash with Celta Vigo boosted by the return to Catalonia this week of coach Tito Vilanova.
Vilanova has spent the past two months in New York undergoing chemotherapy and radiotherapy following surgery on his parotid gland in December.
The 44-year-old had suffered a relapse after first having a tumour removed from his throat in November 2011.
Reports in Spain suggested he would meet with the first-team squad tomorrow and may even be present at the clash with second-bottom Celta, although matchday responsibilities will remain with his assistant Jordi Roura.
Vilanova's mere presence is sure to provide a fillip for the players as they embark on another important week with the trip north west followed by Tuesday's Champions League meeting with Paris St Germain.
"I'm very pleased with his return," said young winger Cristian Tello.
"We need him. He'll ease in to his time with the team. The important thing is that he recovers well.
"His absence has been noticeable because the presence of the head coach is always very important."
Barca will definitely be without Pedro on Saturday - the forward sustained a calf injury not long after scoring the only goal for Spain against France on Tuesday night - while Xavi is doubtful due to a hamstring problem.
Due to the international break, Barca's closest challengers Real Madrid have had to endure a fortnight of further speculation surrounding the future of boss Jose Mourinho.
Some reports in England have suggested the Portuguese is close to agreeing a return to Chelsea, while Inter Milan president Massimo Moratti has revealed he remains in touch with a man who led the Nerazzurri to an unprecedented treble in 2010.
Mourinho's immediate focus is seeing out the season with Madrid and landing the club a record 10th Champions League title.
Madrid are 13 points adrift of Barca in the league and midfielder Xabi Alonso admits continental matters are now dominating the players' minds, starting with the first leg of their quarter-final against Galatasaray on Wednesday.
"Nearly all of the fans have told me that we have to go all out to win the Champions League, everyone wants us to win it," said Alonso.
"All Madridistas really want to see the team conquer Europe, they want to see us go all the way and reach the final. But we have a few tough steps to get through for that to happen - the first one is next Wednesday, at our stadium.
"We want to get a good result at home, I am sure that it will be a great game with a great atmosphere."
On Saturday, Madrid visit a Real Zaragoza side a point above the relegation zone
with Alonso admitting it could be a tricky encounter.
"Zaragoza are having problems, they are on a bad run," he said.
"Any trip to any stadium is difficult and I do not think that this will be easy."
Madrid's city rivals Atletico will hope to capitalise on any slip-up when they host Valencia on Sunday while fourth-placed Real Sociedad will hope to extend their remarkable record of one defeat in 18 league games when they go to Espanyol.
At the bottom, there is a six-way scrap to remain in the top flight.
And with Celta Vigo and Zaragoza facing the top two it may provide a chink of light to the others.
Rock-bottom Deportivo La Coruna were given renewed hope by their win over Celta last time out and they have the chance to build on that victory when they visit third-bottom Real Mallorca.
Osasuna and Granada are the other clubs in trouble. Osasuna, in 16th, go to Real Valladolid and Granada visit Athletic on Monday.
Monday's other game sees Real Betis host Getafe while, on Saturday, Rayo Vallecano host Malaga and Sevilla go to Levante.