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Nov 29, 2012

Vilanova joy at Villa display

Barcelona coach Tito Vilanova praised David Villa's hard work in regaining full fitness after the forward decorated his first 90 minutes of the season with a double strike in Barca's 3-1 Copa del Rey victory over Alaves at the Camp Nou on Wednesday evening.

• Blog: Villa ensures of progress

After a first half in which the third tier visitors had taken a shock lead and Adriano had quickly equalised, Villa took centre stage curling in a 25 yard free kick and then tapping home from Cristian Tello's unselfish assist to complete a 6-1 aggregate passage to the last 16, where Barca will face Segunda side Cordoba over two legs next month.

After 'El Guaje', 31, had completed his first 90 minutes of the season, while bringing his career goals total to 301, Vilanova said that such goalscoring power remained a key part of Barcelona's armoury.

"Villa is doing better each day," the Catalan coach said. "We are all very pleased with him. His injury was very complicated and he worked hard throughout the summer. He is a player who scores goals. It is important to us that he is part of the team."

Reflecting on his performance, Villa said: "I have not played 90 minutes. The 301 goals make you think that you've done well and makes you feel proud to have achieved many goals."

Barca's latest starlet Gerard Deulofeu, 18, impressed as a second-half substitute, almost scoring a fourth with an ambitious lob from the right wing. Vilanova reminded the teenager he had plenty more work to do before he could be considered a first team player at Barca.

"Not all footballers can break into the first team at 17 or 18," Tito said. "We have to continue demanding things from him. He has a lot of talent but he also needs to improve."

Vilanova was less guarded in his praise for young defender Marc Planas, 20, who made his senior debut replacing Adriano for the last 20 minutes.

"He is having a great season with Barca B," he said. "He is a quality player and he can play for the first team without any problems. With Adriano and Alba on the team it will not be easy, but he did a good job."

There were also kind words for ex-Arsenal man Alex Song, who played the full game in Sergio Busquets' usual 'pivote' position, and was lucky not to concede a penalty inside the area with the score at 0-0 in the first half.

"He has played very good games for us," Vilanova said. "He is a player that understands our tactical system. We have tried to teach him to play in two different positions and maybe that has confused things a bit. We will try to make him focus on the holding midfielder position but he will also learn how to play as a defender. He is very able and willing."

Looking forward to Barca's next game at home to off-form Athletic Bilbao on Saturday evening, Vilanova said that Marcelo Bielsa's side could reignite at any moment.

"Their results are not the same, but last season they were excellent," he said. "We have only played a third of the league. At any moment they could return to the level of last season. I respect Bielsa a lot and we know how he prepares for games."

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