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Vilanova: Messi is favourite for Ballon d'Or

Barcelona coach Tito Vilanova says Lionel Messi is the clear favourite for the 2012 Ballon d'Or award and - in comments clearly aimed at Real Madrid coach Jose Mourinho - says he does not need to mount a campaign to convince anyone.

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Since Cristiano Ronaldo announced his "sadness" in September, Mourinho has regularly told interviewers in Spain and elsewhere that his player deserved to win the award, most recently telling France Football last week that the players were equally deserving so it was "impossible" for Messi to win a fourth award when Ronaldo still has only has one.

"I do not think that (Messi) is the favourite for the Ballon d'Or because of the other day, but for the whole year," Vilanova said. "We will never see another player like him. I do not want to start any campaign, I think you can see it every day. What he does nobody else can do."

The Barca coach was speaking to the media at the Camp Nou ahead of Wednesday night's Champions League Group G match against Celtic, who he said would be tough opponents for his team.

"These games are really difficult," Tito said. "Maybe they will be a team who sits back and comes on the counter-attack. We know the danger they have - crosses from the wing, good in the air, counter-attacks. They are playing well."

Vilanova said it was unlikely that any of his injured defensive trio Carles Puyol, Dani Alves or Gerard Pique would be available for the match, and admitted to concern at how long the latter's ankle problem was taking to clear up.

"I am concerned because the sooner we can have him the better," he said. "It is difficult to say how many days he will be out. The doctors will advise when he is okay. When they tell me he is okay, he will train."

With Sergio Busquets suspended, Alex Song is expected to play in deep midfield against Celtic, with Adriano Correia partnering Javier Mascherano at the centre of the Barca back four, although young centre-half Marc Barta and midfielders Sergi Roberto and Jonathan Dos Santos are also options.

After the 5-4 La Liga win at Deportivo la Coruna last weekend, Vilanova said he would like to be conceding less goals, but as long as his team kept winning games he would be happy.

"I think we are the team who has scored the most goals and one thing sometimes compensates for the other," he said. "I would like to concede less goals and score more. We are working on that. We have to analyse things, of course. At the end, if we keep this difference, there will be no problems."


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