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Tito Vilanova has 2nd throat surgery

BARCELONA, Spain -- Barcelona coach Tito Vilanova had throat surgery again Thursday after a tumor on a saliva gland reappeared.

The 44-year-old coach is to have chemotherapy and radiotherapy for up to six weeks. The club did not provide a timetable for his return but said Vilanova might return to the sidelines while continuing treatment.

Assistant coach Jordi Roura will coach the team for Saturday's Spanish league game at Valladolid. Roura has been on the coaching staff since 2009.

"Yesterday was a hard day, but (Vilanova) came to the dressing room and explained everything to us and boosted our spirits," captain Carles Puyol said. "He hadn't even left yet and he was saying he couldn't wait to be back. Today we feel better because the news is good. We have to keep playing the same way, train as hard as we can."

Puyol said the transition to Roura should be smooth.

"He has been working with us for years. He knows the team perfectly," Puyol said. "Our way of doing things won't change. We are in good hands."

Vilanova had surgery to remove a tumor from a saliva gland in November 2011 when he was Pep Guardiola's assistant. Vilanova had chemotherapy and radiotherapy at that time and returned to the squad in 15 days, ahead of schedule.

He took over for Guardiola at the end of last season after five seasons as his assistant, four with the first team and one with the B team.

Under Vilanova, Barcelona is off to its best start, winning 15 of its first 16 league games, a Spanish record. The club leads the standings with 46 points, nine ahead of Atletico Madrid and 13 in front of defending champion Real Madrid.

Barcelona is the favorite for this season's Champions League. On Thursday, Barcelona drew AC Milan in the first knockout round. The opening leg of the two-game series is in Italy on Feb. 20.

The announcement of Vilanova's ailment on Wednesday coincided with the return of defender Eric Abidal. This was his first team practice since his liver transplant eight months earlier.

"The example of Abi, who can already play again, gives strength to the entire group," Puyol said.

The 44-year-old Vilanova had a tumor removed from a saliva gland in November 2011. He took over as Barcelona's coach from Pep Guardiola this season after passing medical checks.

Under Vilanova's guidance, Barcelona is off to the best start in Spanish league history at 15-0-1. The club has 46 points, nine ahead of Atletico Madrid and 13 in front of Real Madrid.

"During this time, depending on his evolution, Vilanova may be able to combine treatment with his work regime," Barcelona said Wednesday.

This is the second case of a serious illness affecting Barcelona's squad in recent years.

French defender Eric Abidal underwent surgery to remove a liver tumor from his liver in March 2011, returned to help Barcelona beat Manchester United in the Champions League final that May, then underwent a liver transplant this April. He has resumed training but has not played in a game this season.

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