- La Liga
Barcelona coach Vilanova to undergo surgery
Barcelona coach Tito Vilanova is to undergo an emergency operation on Thursday morning after a dangerous parotid gland tumour was discovered during a routine examination on Tuesday.
Vilanova successfully underwent an operation to remove a similar tumour in November 2011, quickly returned to his then-role of Pep Guardiola's assistant coach and was given a clean bill of health to take the top job at the club when Guardiola left last summer.
Vilanova spoke with Barca's players on Wednesday afternoon before training at the Ciutat Esportiva Joan Gamper, with the subsequent session then overseen by his assistant Jordi Roura, who looks likely to be in charge for Saturday's La Liga game at Real Valladolid.
A statement from the club's medical staff released via Barcelona's official website on Wednesday afternoon confirmed the story which had been broken earlier in the day by Catalan newspaper Mundo Deportivo.
"An extension of the pathology has been detected in [Vilanova's] parotid gland," said the statement. "The manager requires surgery which he will undergo this Thursday. He is expected to remain in hospital for three to four days.
"After the surgery, Francesc 'Tito' Vilanova will undergo chemotherapy and radiation treatment for approximately six weeks. During this time, and depending on how well he recovers, Vilanova's treatment may be compatible with his work life. Keeping in line with the patient's wishes, we urge respect and privacy during this process."
The day had seen many messages of support published via social media from well-wishers including Barca midfielder Xavi Hernandez, former club president Joan Laporta, Real Madrid captain Iker Casillas and Spanish tennis star Rafael Nadal.
Madrid announced their support via their club website on Wednesday afternoon. "Real Madrid CF wish to express their heartfelt support to FC Barcelona coach, Tito Vilanova, to whom we wish a prompt recovery," said a short statement. "Real Madrid CF extend this support to his club and family."
Espanyol president Joan Collet, Spanish sports minister Miguel Cardenal and the coaches of Getafe, Levante and Deportivo la Coruna were among the many other figures who also spoke of their shock at the news and hope for a quick recovery.
The day also saw many in the Spanish media rush to speculate while everyone waited for Barca to make an official statement. TV station Cuatro quickly reported that the club had already made contact with a potential replacement to take charge of the club until the end of the season. Catalan daily Sport spoke to medical experts who suggested that Vilanova could have the problem dealt with and return to work within a month.
Since taking charge last summer Vilanova has overseen the club's best ever start to a season. Sunday evening's 4-1 win over Atletico Madrid at the Camp Nou stretched Barca's lead in the Primera Division standings to nine points over second-placed Atletico, with Real Madrid a further four points behind in third.
In his 27 games in charge to date, Barcelona have won 23, drawn two and lost two - to Real Madrid in the Spanish Supercopa second leg and at Celtic Park in the Champions League.