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Is a title challenge possible for Man Utd?

Manchester United
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Vilanova unlikely to return until April

Barcelona president Sandro Rosell says Tito Vilanova will not be back on the bench for the club's Champions League last 16 second leg against AC Milan at the Camp Nou on March 12.

• Blog: Camp Nou awaits

Stand-in manager Jordi Roura is currently overseeing affairs and was in charge for Wednesday's 2-0 first-leg defeat at the San Siro, as his boss receives medical treatment in New York. Vilanova underwent a procedure to remove a tumour from a saliva gland in December, and has been continuing his recovery at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in Manhattan since January 21.

The blaugrana president, speaking with Mundo Deportivo on Thursday during a trip to Israel to announce a summer friendly game between Barca and a combined Israeli-Palestinian selection, said it would likely be April before Vilanova would be present again at the Camp Nou.

"He will not be back for this game with Milan," Rosell said. "It is expected that he will be back on the bench in April."

Asked whether he felt his team could overcome the two-goal deficit and qualify for the quarter-finals, Rosell was positive.

"Can we come back against Milan?" he said. "I am always optimistic."

Vilanova remains in overall charge of first-team affairs, and reportedly watches all games and training sessions from New York, thanks to a special closed-circuit TV system installed by the club. He is also in direct contact with Roura, and fitness coach Aureli Altimira, during games via mobile phone.

Barca sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta, who travelled to New York with Rosell last week to meet with Vilanova and discuss club affairs, said on Tuesday that Josep Guardiola's former assistant remained "better informed" on team affairs than those attending training sessions each day.

"You can see Tito is recovering very well," Zubizarreta said. "We must be prudent, but there is progress and day to day he is getting better. We hope that he will be here soon. He is on top of everything that concerns the team, he is better informed than us here, as he has a lot of time. He can analyse everything instantly, with the difficulty of the distance, of course."

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