Real Valladolid vs Barcelona

Barcelona’s first fixture without Tito Vilanova is a hazardous one against Real Valladolid at the Nuevo Jose Zorrilla.

The Blaugrana were hit with what sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta described as a blow to the jaw on Wednesday, when it was confirmed that Coach Vilanova had suffered a relapse of his cancer.

The 44-year-old was operated on Thursday and will now undergo chemotherapy and radiotherapy, with his assistant Jordi Roura filling in on the bench.

“It was a hard knock,” admitted captain Carles Puyol. “But we have to get up and keep fighting. Roura knows us well, we are in very good hands.”

Valladolid have surprised everyone by lingering in the top 10 and will take encouragement from how close they pushed Real Madrid at the Zorrilla just a few weeks ago.

“I wish Tito a speedy recovery,” commented their Coach Miroslav Djukic. “You have to be brave against Barcelona. We all dream of winning against them.”

Kick off: Saturday December 22, 5.00 (BST)