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Jan, 5, 2013

Vilanova to take charge of derby

Barcelona coach Tito Vilanova is to return to the dugout for Sunday's derby with Espanyol.

• Blog: The battle of Catalunya

Vilanova, 44, recently suffered a recurrence of the cancer he was diagnosed with in 2011 and the Spaniard had surgery on his saliva glands, but Barca president Sandro Rosell said at the end of December that the coach would be back in charge by mid to late January.

His assistant, Jordi Roura, has now confirmed that Vilanova will take the reins at the Camp Nou on Sunday.

"In theory, he will be on the bench tomorrow for the game against Espanyol," Roura told a press conference. "Tito surprised everyone with the swiftness of his return.

"It's true that he still has to undergo treatment but, honestly, there is no doubt that he is doing really well. He is lively and strong, which is really important. His spirit is extraordinary."

Roura also insisted that Barcelona cannot afford to relax in La Liga, despite holding a 16-point lead over Real Madrid.

"This is not over," he said. "There is a lot of time left in this league. We have to go into every game looking to win."

He also insisted the team would not be adversely affected by Vilanova's relapse. "The players have already proved their mettle in adversity," he said.

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