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Roura takes Barca reins in Tito absence

With Barcelona boss Tito Vilanova recovering from Thursday's operation to remove a tumour from his parotid gland, assistant coach Jordi Roura is to take charge of first-team affairs, starting with the Primera Division leaders' visit to Real Valladolid on Saturday.

• Marcotti: Get well soon, Tito
• Blog: Open letter to Vilanova

Barca sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta said on Wednesday that the club had at no time considered bringing in more experienced options such as former boss Pep Guardiola or ex-Barca B and Roma manager Luis Enrique as interim coaches to cover Vilanova's absence.

Roura, along with physical coach Aureli Altimira, oversaw training on Wednesday evening and Zubizarreta said he was confident that the coaching structures in place at the club would allow things to continue as before.

"With Jordi, Aureli and all the staff we are in extraordinary hands," he said. "With them we will continue down this path and show up in Valladolid [with them]. Tito is not here [but] we have Jordi and the coaching staff."

Catalan-born Roura, 45, came through Barca's famous La Masia academy with both Vilanova and Guardiola in the 1980s, when he was reportedly nicknamed 'greedy-guts' due to his big appetite. A centre-forward who was given his debut by Johan Cruyff, his playing career was badly affected by a knee injury suffered against AC Milan in the 1989 edition of the European Super Cup. He played just 10 games for Barcelona and, after short spells at lower-division sides Murcia and Figueres, was forced to retire aged just 25.

Guardiola brought him back to Barcelona in 2009, when his job involved tactical analysis of opponents. After Vilanova took the top job last summer, he chose Roura from a number of candidates to be his second-in-command. When Tito was suspended for two games after being sent from the bench earlier this season at Osasuna, Roura took the team for the wins over Valencia and Getafe.

Zubizarreta joked on Wednesday that Vilanova would surely watch Saturday's Valladolid game from his hospital bed, but was more serious when saying that winning matches was not the main priority at present.

"We want to win in Valladolid, of course, and Tito has said that in the dressing-room," he said. "We are a football team, who play football, but today that is not so important. Today we are not thinking about the sporting side, among other things as we cannot win Saturday's game today. Today our priority is Tito."

Barca's initial statement on Vilanova's illness suggested he may be able to return to work within weeks. Zubizarreta was at all times clear that Tito remained the club's first-team coach and the idea was he would return to the job once he had recovered.

"Jordi will sit on the bench, but the coach is still Tito," he said.

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