Ahead of their trip to face Celta Vigo in La Liga on Saturday, Barcelona have been boosted by the return of Tito Vilanova. The Blaugrana coach has been in New York for the past 10 weeks receiving treatment for a throat tumor.
Vilanova will not travel to Vigo, but is likely to lead the team in their Champions League quarterfinal first leg against Paris Saint-Germain on Tuesday. But the man who has been filling in for Vilanova, assistant Jordi Roura, has said just having him back is a huge lift to everyone at the club.
“Tito's return means a lot,” he said, according to Barcelona’s official website. “The boss is back and that's always important. It’s an injection of joy and vitality. It’s a very important boost for the squad."
Barcelona will be heavy favorites to at least maintain their 13 point lead atop La Liga against a side that lies second from bottom and three points from safety. But Roura believes Celta’s predicament makes them tricky opposition.
"Celta are playing for their survival and for them it is a matter of life or death, which makes it difficult.”
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While Vilanova will not be in the traveling party to Vigo, Eric Abidal is included in the squad for the first time since his liver transplant. However, the Barcelona boss will be forced to select a team without a number of absentees. Xavi has picked up a hamstring strain to join Carles Puyol, Jordi Alba, Adriano and Pedro on the sidelines, while Victor Valdes is suspended.
Celta will also be hamstrung by several players being unavailable. Leading scorer Iago Aspas is suspended alongside Andres Tunez, while Michael Krohn-Delhi, Sergio Alvarez, Hugo Mallo, Samuel Llorca and Alex Lopez are all out injured.
Celta Vigo (probable)
D: Johny, Cabral, Demidov, Lago
M: Oubina, Insa
Fernandez, Bermejo, De Lucas
D: Alves, Pique, Mascherano, Montoya
M: Fabregas, Song, Thiago
F: Sanchez, Messi, Tello
Prediction: With several players unavailable and one eye likely to be on their midweek trip to Paris, Barcelona could be vulnerable on Saturday. But a Celta Vigo side, with just one win and seven defeats in their last 10 matches and without the influential Aspas, are unlikely to be able to take advantage.
Celta Vigo 1-3 Barcelona
Where to watch: The La Liga clash will kick-off from Estadio Balaidos at 1 p.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by beIN Sport. A live stream, which you view at your own discretion, will be available here.