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Trending: Pressure grows on West Ham


Persecuted Barca ready for response


Busquets: We miss Vilanova

Javier Mascherano has urged everyone at the club to pull together to improve their form in the absence of head coach Tito Vilanova.

Sergio Busquets has admitted that Barcelona miss absent boss Tito Vilanova, but says the team plans to give him a lift by overturning the two-goal deficit in next week's the Champions League last-16 return game against AC Milan.

• Blog: Barcelona drops Clasico

Vilanova, 44, has spent the last two months in New York receiving medical treatment. On Monday, Barca president Sandro Rosell said he would be back at the Camp Nou as soon as possible, but he is not expected to be present for the crunch second leg against Milan on March 12.

With their coach absent, and stand-in Jordi Roura struggling to fill the gap, Barca's form has dipped alarmingly in recent weeks, as the 2-0 European loss at San Siro was followed by two consecutive defeats to rivals Real Madrid in the Copa del Rey [3-1 at home] and La Liga [2-1 away].

Busquets, speaking after being awarded the 2012 Catalan Player of the Year award in Barcelona on Monday night, said Tito's absence was felt by everyone at the club, but they would try to help him by overcoming Milan and qualifying for the Champions League quarter-finals.

"When the boss is not there, everyone misses him," Busquets said. "His absence is noticed and the day-to-day work is more difficult. We all have to give a bit more. [Beating Milan] would be good for him, it would be really positive. But the most important, in the case of Tito or any colleague, is their health."

Barca's players are convinced a comeback against the in-form Serie A side is possible, claimed the former La Masia trainee.

"The players are the first ones who believe in the comeback," he said. "It is clear we are coming from some negative results, but we are the first who think we are going to turn it around, that we have a final to play."

Busquets, 24, said that Barca's current run of poor performances had been badly timed. "The team is the same as always," he said.

"What is clear is that some dips always come along, and ours arrived in two important competitions against two great teams. But we must keep going and correct the errors. I am sure the team will come out of this."

On winning the award, ahead of other nominees including Xavi Hernandez, Carles Puyol and Cesc Fabregas, Busquets said that he was happy his work in his unglamorous midfield 'pivote' position was being recognised.

"I am not too used to this," he said. "It is very important for me. Bit by bit my work is being recognised. I am very happy at that."

Wigan boss Roberto Martinez was named Catalan coach of the year at the gala ceremony in Barcelona, with Espanyol midfielder Sandra Vilanova taking the women's award. Barca B midfielder Sergi Roberto, 21, received the Young Player of the Year prize.


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