Continuity amid Vilanova adversity could push Barcelona to greater heights

(Getty)

(Getty)

The coach will undergo an operation on Thursday, but the Catalans’ philosophy will remain intact thanks to a capable stand-in and a group of players familiar with pulling through

Life without Tito Vilanova begins away to Valladolid in the Primera Division on Saturday, but the road to recovery starts at home for both coach and club.

Barcelona’s sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta spoke both elegantly and eloquently on Wednesday, as the Catalan club met the media following the sad news that Vilanova had suffered a cancer relapse and would need an operation on Thursday to remove a new tumour growth.

“Tito is the man in charge and that won’t change,” Zubizarreta explained.

For the moment, however, it has to change. On Sunday, at Valladolid, Jordi Roura will step in as Vilanova recovers from his operation, which is likely to see him spend three or four days in hospital. “Tito will be watching and he has told us we have to win,” the legendary goalkeeper explained. “But today football doesn’t matter – our priority is Tito.”

And they will do so with their philosophy very much intact. Roura, like Vilanova and Guardiola before him, is a fellow La Masia graduate and a man who has been part of the project since it started under Pep and Tito in the summer of 2008. His promotion is a natural progression and, of course, he will remain in close contact with the first-team coach.

So Barca, who recently fielded 11 players from La Masia for over an hour in a Primera Division clash at Levante, are increasingly looking to their famous academy to fill their coaching voids as well – albeit hopefully only on a temporary basis this time.

“Yesterday gave us many reasons to be joyful,” explained Zubizarreta, in reference to Abidal’s return and the contract renewals of Carles Puyol, Xavi and Lionel Messi. “Today the sun has gone in. But it will come out again.”

The key will be just how those players react to the enormous emotional blow that Tito’s latest illness represents. In La Liga, however, Barca sit pretty on top of the tree with a healthy nine-point lead (and 13 over Real Madrid) after 16 rounds of the championship, which gives the team a comfortable cushion ahead of testing times.

These players have triumphed before in adversity and Vilanova’s condition could see squad solidarity push the Catalan club to yet greater heights in 2012-13. That was the case during Abidal’s absence in 2010-11, when the defender returned right at the end of the season and ended up lifting the Champions League trophy at Wembley after a 3-1 success over Manchester United.

The final is at Wembley once again this year, and a triumph for Tito’s team would be some story.

Read Ben Hayward’s entire article here on Goal.com

NOTE: According to the statement released by F.C. Barcelona, Tito Vilanova’s surgery went ahead as scheduled. The TKTG family wishes Tito a speedy recovery. You can read the club’s statement regarding the surgery here.

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