December 22, 2012
Barca focused on football
Team Stat Comparison
|Goals for *||1.5||2.7|
|Goals against *||1.4||1.3|
|Last 5 home||L-W-D-W-L||W-W-W-W-W|
|Last 5 away||L-L-L-D-L||W-W-D-W-D|
|* Goals per match - home matches for home club and away matches for away club|
|Stats: Real Valladolid | Barcelona|
|3/16||A: Sevilla FC||3/16||H: Osasuna|
|3/22||H: Rayo Vallecano||3/23||A: Real Madrid|
|3/27||A: Real Sociedad||3/26||H: Celta Vigo|
|3/30||H: Almeria||3/29||A: Espanyol|
|4/6||H: Valencia||4/6||H: Real Betis|
Barcelona will turn their attentions back to matters on the pitch when they meet Real Valladolid in the Primera Division with manager Tito Vilanova their driving force.
The season could not have been going smoother, with Barca nine points clear of Atletico Madrid and 13 ahead of great rivals Real Madrid, whose manager, Jose Mourinho, has already conceded his side's hopes of retaining their title are over.
But this week brought the shocking news that Vilanova's cancer has returned and he underwent a second operation on his parotid gland.
The 44-year-old, who also had a tumour removed from his throat in November last year, will now start six weeks of chemotherapy and assistant Jordi Roura has taken temporary charge of the team.
Coincidentally, this week also saw the return to training of full-back Eric Abidal nine months after a liver transplant necessitated by his own cancer battle.
The Frenchman's recovery has been a hugely welcome boost for Barcelona's players, and captain Carles Puyol said: "You're never prepared to hear news like this, but Abidal's example gives the team strength and I'm sure Tito's case will do the same.
"It's not just an example to us but to the man in the street, proving that if you fight hard, everything will be fine.
"The best way to support him (Vilanova) is to keep moving forward. It is a severe blow but we must get up and keep on playing. This team has always done that and will do so again.''
No date has yet been put on a return for Abidal but sporting vice-president Josep Maria Bartomeu revealed a new contract is on the table.
He told Marca: "The renewal of Abidal's contract is drafted and, when he plays in his first game, he will sign.''
Mid-table Valladolid have acquitted themselves well on their return to the top flight and sit comfortably in midtable.
One player especially keen to make his mark against Barca will be defender Marc Valiente, who joined the Catalan club at the age of 10 and spent a decade there.
He captained sides featuring the likes of Lionel Messi but was unable to break into the first team and left for Sevilla in 2008 before joining Valladolid in the summer of 2010.
He told Barca TV: "Playing against Barca reminds me of things, they taught me to play football and educated me as a person, but now (Valladolid coach Miroslav) Djukic has instilled in us our own philosophy.''
Valiente, meanwhile, sent his best wishes to Vilanova, saying: "I hope he recovers soon. These things put football in the background and hopefully he can come back.''