Tito Vilanova Confirmed to Lead Barcelona Against Espanyol

Lucas RadicellaCorrespondent IIJanuary 5, 2013

BARCELONA, SPAIN - OCTOBER 22:  Head coach Tito Vilanova of FC Barcelona faces the media during a press conference ahead their UEFA Champions League Group G match between FC Barcelona and Celtic FC at the Camp Nou Stadium on October 22, 2012 in Barcelona, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
David Ramos/Getty Images

Tito Vilanova will return to the Barcelona bench for the game that will be played on Sunday against city rivals Espanyol. 

At the pre-match press conference held on Saturday, Jordi Roura, Vilanova’s No. 2, who stepped in for him during his absence, confirmed that the coach would be fit enough to be sitting on the bench (via Goal.com). The good news started this week when Vilanova was able to assist training on the afternoon of Wed., Jan. 2.

He did not appear at yesterday’s public training, apparently not wanting to take the attention away from his players. Yesterday was one the very rare occasions when Barcelona fans could see their idols in training up close. About 14,000 Barcelona fans chose to go see their players at the Mini Estadi, their training pitch (via Marca).

Roura said during the press conference that Barcelona had managed to cope well with Tito’s absence and that the team would remain the same. He explained there had been a voluntary effort to keep his training and managing as similar as possible to how it was under Vilanova (via AS.com).

"Hopefully this will be my last press conference—I hope I can say that I won't be dealing with the press again because Tito is here,” Roura added in what is expected to be one of his last public appearances (via AS.com).

Vilanova was operated on Dec. 20 for a resurgence of the parotid-gland cancer he had been treated for in November 2011. The operation went well, and he was out of the hospital only two days afterward (via The Guardian).

In total he was absent for just over two weeks, although because the dates coincided with the Spanish Christmas break, Roura was only in charge of one official match, the 3-1 win over Valladolid on Dec. 22.

At first Barcelona president Sandro Rosell had said that Vilanova was likely to be absent for longer spell and return towards the middle of January (via Goal).

Several Barcelona players have expressed their joy and surprise at having Vilanova back with the team so swiftly.

"After everything we went through in the week leading up to the Valladolid game, we never imagined that Tito would be back with us so quickly, and to see him looking so well is yet another incentive for us,” Javier Mascherano said yesterday (via Marca).

Barcelona will play at home tomorrow against Espanyol and will look to maintain their lead at the top of the table.

The three top teams will play on the same day, with Real Madrid receiving Real Sociedad just before the Barcelona derby, and Atletico Madrid will travel to Mallorca for a game that will kick off straight after the match at Camp Nou.