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Mar 5, 2013

Vilanova return to Barca imminent

Barcelona coach Tito Vilanova could make his long-awaited return from illness as early as this month, president Sandro Rosell has confirmed.

Vilanova, 44, has spent three months away from the Camp Nou after suffering a relapse of the cancer he was treated for in late 2011.

But after successfully undergoing chemo and radiotherapy treatments in New York, Vilanova could return to the sidelines for the latter stages of this season.

It will be a timely boost for Barca, with a 2-0 loss to AC Milan in the Champions League, as well as Copa del Rey elimination at the hands of Real Madrid, showing signs of fatigue.

But Rosell insists the Catalan giants were expected to stutter without the influence of Vilanova.

"There is no doubt that a group gets weaker when they lose their leader," Rosell said. "Sports psychologists say, and I suppose there is a scientific explanation to it, that after 30 days the group's shape weakens.

"We have been without our leader for a long time now and it is normal to see this happening. He is longing to come back, hoping for the process to finish, which is due at the end of March.

"The other day he told me he was happy because he could start the countdown as he is over half of the process and he has less than 50 percent of it left. That is very good for his state of mind. He wants to come back and we want him back."

Rosell insists Barcelona have not pressured Vilanova to return, with Jordi Roura proving an apt replacement, steering the Blaugrana into strong contention for the La Liga title.

"The absolute priority of the club this season is for Tito Vilanova to get his health back and everything else is of secondary importance," he said. "I want to thank Roura for his work, he is a hero. We must thank him enormously for what he is doing because it was not his responsibility.

"Also the players who are suffering this burden and are still top of the league. Nothing will change here until Tito returns even if it costs us all our titles this season. I would consider it a successful season if Tito was back to full health by the end of it."

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