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Feb 22, 2013

Barca out to 'turn the page' on Milan loss

Barcelona stand-in coach Jordi Roura said his side want to use Saturday's La Liga clash with Sevilla at the Camp Nou to work Wednesday's unexpected 2-0 Champions League defeat at Milan out of their system.

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With Barca 12 points clear in the Primera Division, and meetings against Real Madrid in the Copa del Rey on Tuesday and then in La Liga in Madrid next Saturday on the horizon, as well as next month's return clash with Milan, Barca's players could be tempted to overlook Sevilla's visit.

Roura said that, on the contrary, a league game against an in-form team like Unai Emery's was just the tonic the Catalan side's hurting players needed to get back up and running.

"I do not want to talk about Milan or Madrid, until they come along," he said. "We have Sevilla now, we must focus and turn the page. This game will be useful to recover. It is normal that the players are not happy, because the result [in Milan] was not favourable, and they are the first to know that. What is important is how the team reacts after a bad result. We have always fronted up and we will do so again in the coming games."

Barca president Sandro Rosell said on Thursday that first team coach Tito Vilanova, who is currently receiving medical treatment in New York, would not return to the Camp Nou bench until April.

Roura, who was an opposition analyst at the club last season, admitted that Vilanova's continuing absence was not ideal, but said the side's problems had been over-hyped in the wake of just one loss.

"Tito's absence is always noted," he said. "We are here to try and minimise it. [But] this has just been one game. To speak about a bad run of form seems a bit excessive to me. We notice he is not here, but we want him with us all the time, not because things are going badly or well."

Despite Roura's talk of taking the game as seriously as possible, Barca's side against Sevilla is expected to be much changed from the XI at San Siro on Wednesday. Xavi Hernandez, Carles Puyol, Andres Iniesta and Pedro Rodriguez are in line for rests.

Lionel Messi, who said on his tencent weibo [Chinese twitter equivalent] account on Thursday that "we believe in a comeback against Milan" is however sure to start and look to stretch his record for consecutive La Liga goalscoring appearances to 15.

David Villa, Thiago Alcantara, Alexis Sanchez, Cristian Tello and Javier Mascherano are all likely starters, with Roura suggesting that Villa was fully recovered from his recent stomach problems.

"This week we decided that he would not travel, and he has worked well in training," he said. "He feels good. Tomorrow morning we will have our last training session. He is another option we have."

Eric Abidal who received a medical all clear to play on Thursday after over a year out recovering from a liver transplant, is not yet quite ready to return to the side, Roura said.

"Abi's return is extraordinary news for him, for the club, and for the squad," he said. "A great player has been recovered. On a sporting level, this is great news for the team. On sporting level it is good news for the squad. We hope he gets his match-fitness back soon. I believe the process will be long though as this was not a normal injury."

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