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50-50: Liverpool vs. Real Madrid

Champions League 11 hours ago
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Apr 26, 2013

Vilanova ready to battle on

Tito Vilanova has stressed he feels fit and able to continue as Barcelona coach for next season, and claimed his side could turn around their four-goal deficit in next Wednesday's Champions League semi-final second leg against Bayern Munich.

Vilanova was taking his first press conference in three months, having received cancer treatment in New York and then left media duties to assistant Jordi Roura on his return.

The coach quickly moved to stress that he now felt well and able to continue in the job next term.

"I feel fine after what has happened," he said. "I did not come here before due to secondary effects, but each day I feel better. I have the strength and motivation to continue next season. In no moment have I thought of stepping down. Football is my life. I enjoy my job - I am lucky in that."

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Vilanova said he would have accepted it had the club replaced him with another manager, but praised Roura and the players for carrying on so well in his absence.

"I would have understood any decision, as it would have been professional, not personal," he said. "But we have to be happy with the players, who maintained their superb position in La Liga, improving their lead in the table, and are competing in the Champions League semi-finals. The staff have improved too as they have had to do more things than expected."

Barcelona may be crowned La Liga champions on Saturday night should they win at Athletic Bilbao that afternoon and Real Madrid then fail to defeat Atletico Madrid. Asked if he would prefer to seal the title in front of the Camp Nou fans next weekend against Real Betis, Vilanova said he wanted the title as soon as possible.

"The game against Athletic is very important," he said. "I want to be champion, on the field, or in any moment, it is all the same. I just want to be the champion."

Barca could then go on and overcome their 4-0 first-leg defeat in Wednesday's Champions League return game at home to Bayern Munich, Vilanova maintained.

"We are Barcelona and playing at home," he said. "I cannot say we will come back easily, but we have an obligation to our fans to compete. We are capable of beating them. It is very difficult, of course - we know the team we are up against. But we are not throwing in the towel. Setting out to score four goals is difficult, but we will go out to play well and try to be in a position to compete during the game."

The decision not to try to change the flow of last week's first leg at the Allianz Arena with earlier substitutions was defended.

"We do not always make three changes in each game," Vilanova said. "In that situation we decided not to. We were talking the whole second half about possible things to do. We had confidence in the players out on the pitch."

That hammering in Germany has led to an expectation of a busy summer of transfers at the club, with vice-president Jose Maria Bartomeu talking of a "shaking-up" of the squad. Vilanova said Barca did not make decisions about buying or selling players based on one game.

"Our plans for next season do not change because of one result," he said. "I know the squad, the players we have, and those who could come in. After losing a game it is easy to say we must change six, but what six can you bring in that are good enough for Barcelona?

"We saw how some excellent players, like Zlatan Ibrahimovic, can find it difficult to fit in with our style. The base of the team will continue to be the Spanish players who have won the World Cup and European Championship, along with the best player in the world [Lionel Messi]."

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