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Feb, 27, 2013

Roura stays in charge, Rosell insists

Cristiano Ronaldo, Pedro and Sergio Ramos react after Real Madrid beat Barcelona 3-1 to secure a spot in the Copa del Rey final.

Barcelona president Sandro Rosell says that recent painful defeats to AC Milan in the Champions League and Real Madrid in the Copa del Rey will not lead to a change in the club's current unusual coaching situation, which sees Tito Vilanova managing things remotely from New York and stand-in Jordi Roura the main man on the bench during games.

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Vilanova has been in Manhattan since January receiving medical treatment and is not expected back in Barcelona until April. On Wednesday, Rosell, along with Barca sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta and sporting vice-president Josep Maria Bartomeu, flew to the US for a meeting that was scheduled as a planning session for next season but will surely now consider the team's current issues on the pitch.

Rosell told Spanish TV station Canal Plus after Tuesday's 1-3 loss at Camp Nou that Vilanova's health was more important than any football match and that, although his absence had an effect on the team, he had confidence in the club's current coaching set-up.

"Without knocking the work of the rest of the technical team, Tito Vilanova is our leader," Rosell said. "We miss him as a person and a professional. [But] his health is the most important thing. That takes priority - it is more important than tonight's match or tomorrow's trophies. Roura will continue managing the first team because we have a lot of confidence in him."

Although Vilanova watches all Barca training sessions and is in constant contact with the bench during matches, Barcelona have looked increasingly rudderless in recent weeks.

Roura told Tuesday's post-game press conference, after the second-leg defeat to Madrid had seen Barca lose out 2-4 on aggregate, that he did not want to take full control of first-team matters until his boss was fully recovered.

"Decisions are agreed with Tito," Roura said. "I do not want autonomy, and I am the assistant coach. During the game we make decisions. I do not need, or want, full control."

Roura denied that Barca's apparent lack of energy in recent games was down to flawed physical preparation for the season.

"With our way of working, it is logical that there are peaks and it could be that we are a bit short [at the moment]," he said. "I do not know if that is the reason or if it is because we have played three very tough games in a row. The physical planning is done. The intention is to minimise the dips, but we cannot change things now after one bad result."

Barca would perhaps make tactical and personnel changes for May 12's Champions League return match against Milan at the Camp Nou, where Barca must overcome a 0-2 first-leg deficit, Roura said.

"It is very likely that against Milan we will make various tactical changes," he said. "When we lose it is normal to look at what changes can be made. We have been rotating players, but we did seem to miss a bit of spark."

Barca midfielder Xavi Hernandez suggested the side's problems were more mental than physical when he spoke with reporters on Tuesday night but said a win in Saturday's La Liga Clasico against Madrid at the Bernabeu would put the team back on track to win the season's two most important competitions.

"People always say [we are tired] when we lose," Xavi said. "The issue is to get back our winning dynamic. Milan hit us with a hammer-blow. Today is another heavy blow, but we must keep going. We must beat Madrid on Saturday, to increase the gap on a rival and to keep going with our heads high. It is not the end of the world, just a title lost - the least important one."

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