Puyol: It was a hard knock

Carles Puyol has reflected on Barcelona’s reaction to the news about Tito Vilanova and promised in his absence that ‘nothing will change’ at the club.

Barca confirmed yesterday evening that the 44-year-old Coach had suffered a relapse in his battle against cancer, after a tumour was found on his salivary gland for a second time in just over a year.

“Today the squad is more animated. Yesterday we had a chat with him and that encouraged us. The message we have heard is that everything went well,” began centre-back Puyol today when asked for news of Vilanova’s surgery this morning.

“It was a hard knock. As Zubi said it was right in the jaw. We have to get up and keep fighting. The team has always done this and will do now.

“This is a very responsible team. We shall maintain our level, train to our best and keep going. We hope to keep winning. The best way that the team can help is to stay the same and progress in our matches.”

It is the latest piece of news to hit the club like this, following on from Eric Abidal’s initial diagnosis with a liver tumour, his need the following year for a liver transplant and then late last year’s news of Vilanova’s initial diagnosis.

“These are always hard shots. You can never be prepared for them. It is the fourth. In the example of Abi, he can already play again and that gives strength to the group.

“He is an example to us, but also to people in the street. If you can fight, you can cope and even compete at the highest level.

“Yesterday, Vilanova particularly conveyed great strength in talking to us. We were touched and when he finished speaking we were feeling better.

“Their fight will give us strength, both he and Abidal, who have been hit hardest, have always been those who have encouraged us to move forward.”

In Vilanova’s absence, assistant Coach Jordi Roura will oversee training and directive from the touchline during games.

“He has been working with us. He knows us well. Things remain the same, our approach will not change. We are in very good hands. He is a message of reassurance.

“We are not concerned, we will continue along the same path. This is the right direction.

“Do we need a head Coach? We do not play alone. But we are very clear on what we have to do. Tito is very important for us, he is our leader, he is pulling the cart. We have to fight for him even more so if possible.

“We must continue on the same path. It is not going to change anything. The important thing is that he recovers and gets well as soon as possible. We have to all send our strength and energy to him to do well.”

Barcelona have been paired with Milan in the Champions League Last 16, which is the tie that Puyol asked for.

“I am very happy. I said the other week that I wanted Milan, but because they are easy, but because I’ve always liked them. It is going to be a very nice tie.

“Manchester United and Real Madrid are two of the best teams in Europe. All the matches will be difficult, but for me the Spanish remain the favourites.

“Our familiarity with Milan? It is neither good nor bad. We know each other but also some of the other rivals. And those we don’t we study.

“The knockout games are always very complicated. Anyway, it is a long way away.”

Tags Milan Puyol Roura Vilanova
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