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Jan, 11, 2013

Roura pleased with Villa display

Barcelona assistant coach Jordi Roura praised David Villa's contribution in scoring twice in Thursday's 5-0 Copa del Rey stroll past Cordoba, adding that the striker was still working his way back to fitness after his long injury lay-off.

• Blog: No Messi, no problem

Thiago Alcantara and an Alexis Sanchez double completed the scoring for Barca, who progressed 7-0 on aggregate to face Malaga in the quarter finals.

Roura predicted that Villa, who left the pitch 12 minutes from the end with a thigh muscle problem which initial reports suggest is not serious, would play an important role for Barca before the end of the season.

"He can score a lot of goals, that is his strength and he put in an exceptional game," he said. "Bit by bit he is getting back to his best. There is no doubt he will be a very important player for us this season."

Villa's expertly taken brace both came within a whirlwind start, when a blaugrana side missing regulars Lionel Messi, Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta, Gerard Pique and Jordi Alba began with an intensity and tempo which blew their Segunda Division opponents away.

"If I had to pick something out it would be the attitude, the ambition the players came out with," Roura, in charge as Tito Vilanova was in New York continuing his recovery from last month's operation to remove a tumour from his parotid gland, said. "Because in principle it could have seemed a comfortable game, which invited a certain conservatism, but they showed the motivation to put on a show, the attitude and ambition of the squad. You must take your hat off to them, the first half was exceptional."

Alcantara, who scored Barca's opener and provided the assist for three of the other goals, had also been exceptional, in Roura's opinion.

"Thiago is playing at a very high level," he said. "He started with the right attitude and he had exceptional intensity, like most of the players."

Roura also thought Sanchez's goals, his first since October 2, were reward for the hard work he continues to put in off the pitch.

"The work Alexis puts in is extraordinary," he said. "But before he was not scoring. We are very pleased with his work. It was getting hard for him and hopefully this will help him."

Four-time Ballon d'Or winner Messi spent the whole game on the bench. Roura revealed that the intention had been to give him a run in the second half but the muscle tear suffered by midfielder Sergi Roberto, who now faces four weeks on the sidelines, had changed that plan.

"We wanted to give him some playing time," he said. "But the fact that Sergi Roberto could not continue meant that Messi did not have to play."

The quarter-final draw means that Barca will now play Malaga three times in ten days, starting in La Liga on Sunday evening, with the first Copa leg at the Camp Nou next midweek and the return at La Rosaleda the following week.

"Playing against the same team [Malaga] three times can be uncomfortable, but each match is different," Roura said.

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