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Vilanova undergoes successful surgery

Barcelona have announced that Tito Vilanova's operation was completed without complications on Thursday morning.

Vilanova underwent a two-and-a-half-hour procedure to remove a tumour on his parotid gland following the discovery that the Barca coach had suffered a relapse.

A club statement read: "Tito Vilanova's surgical procedure has gone as expected. His clinical progress will determine how long he remains in hospital. The expected timeframe has been maintained. Following the wishes of the patient, it is asked that the privacy and confidentiality of the process are respected."

Barcelona captain Carles Puyol said the mood in the dressing room at the Camp Nou had lifted with the news of the successful surgery.

"Today the dressing-room is more cheerful," he said. "We spoke with him yesterday and that lifted us. The first message we received (this morning) was that all had gone very well, and we are happy with that."

The defender said that news that Vilanova had suffered a relapse had been hard to take, and the team knew it must follow the path the coach had set.

"These are tough blows - as [sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta] said yesterday it was a straight one right on the jaw," he said. "But you must lift yourself up and keep playing. This team has always done that and will do it again.

"We know what we have to do, but Tito is very important for us. He is the one who pulls the wagon. We have the path marked out and we must follow it."

The club captain welcomed the decision to hand the first-team reins to assistant coach Jordi Roura while Vilanova recovers.

"He has been working with us for years," Puyol said. "He knows us perfectly. Things will continue the same, our approach will not change. We are in very good hands. It is a message of calm, the right decision."

Eric Abidal, now back alongside his team-mates after nine months out while recovering from a liver transplant, could soon return to first-team action.

Puyol said: "The example of Abi gives strength to the team. He has been training for a few days. Now he needs to go on bit by bit. He has so much strength. He will be ready to play soon."

Puyol said that, although he was happy to accept the club's offer to extend his contract to 2016, he would only go on playing as long as he was enjoying his football.

"It was the club who suggested three more years to me," he said. "I will keep playing as long as I feel good. The idea is to complete (the contract), but it is very long."

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