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Mar 29, 2013

Vilanova could return for PSG clash

Tito Vilanova is likely to return to the Barcelona bench for Tuesday's Champions League quarter-final first leg at Paris Saint-Germain, according to his friend and assistant Jordi Roura.

Blaugrana first-team coach Vilanova returned to Barcelona on Tuesday after two months of receiving medical treatment in New York. He took his first training session since late January at Barca's Ciutat Esportiva on Friday afternoon, making preparations for Saturday's La Liga trip to Celta Vigo.

Speaking before the session, Roura said Vilanova would gradually ease his way back to full duties, and everyone around the club was delighted to have him back.

"[Vilanova] will take today's training session but he will not travel to Vigo," Roura said. "He will come back with us gradually, but if everything goes well then he will be in Paris with the team. The week or two after the treatment are hard, secondary effects can appear. He will look at his own situation. We are happy to have him here, having the boss back is very important for the squad."

Also missing the journey to Galicia will be playmaker Xavi Hernandez, who aggravated his ongoing hamstring problem when playing all 90 minutes of Spain's 1-0 World Cup qualifying win in France on Tuesday. Barca's medical staff had warned beforehand that this could happen, but Roura declined to point the finger at anyone.

"Xavi played in France because he received the medical authorisation of the Spanish national team," he said. "Our doctors are in constant contact with them. Injuries happen in football, whoever plays takes a risk. We must focus on getting our injured players back as quickly as possible."

The international break also saw Spain internationals Jordi Alba and Pedro Rodriguez added to Barca's lengthy injury list, joining Carles Puyol and Adriano Correia.

Given their 13-point lead in La Liga, a priority must be not to pick up any more fitness problems, so squad players such as Martin Montoya, Thiago Alcantara, Cristian Tello and Alex Song all look likely to start at Balaidos. Back-up goalkeeper Jose Pinto will be between the posts as first choice Victor Valdes is suspended.

Lionel Messi will likely be eager to play - despite his exhausting 90 minutes at altitude in Bolivia on Tuesday night - as a goal on Saturday will mean he has scored in 19 consecutive La Liga games, a full half-season against every other team in the division.

Celta are currently 19th in the table, having lost their last three games, including a painful 3-1 Galician derby defeat at Deportivo La Coruna last time out. They are also without suspended top scorer Iago Aspas, who begins the four-game ban he received for headbutting Depor's Carlos Marchena in that game.

Nevertheless, Roura said Barca would have their guard up for Saturday's clash.

"Games against teams in a situation as difficult as Celta's are always very tough to play against," he said. "Celta are playing for their place in the division. It is life or death for them. It is also very important for us. Another step. Whoever is in our team will go into the game with the maximum intensity and seriousness."

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