Lionel Messi: 'We have missed Tito Vilanova'

Tito Vilanova
© PA Photos
Lionel Messi says that Barcelona are missing coach Tito Vilanova.

Lionel Messi has admitted that Barcelona have been impacted by the absence of coach Tito Vilanova.

The 44-year-old, who took the reins from Pep Guardiola at the end of last season, is currently in New York undergoing cancer treatment, but is expected to return to Catalonia on March 25.

Barca have suffered a dip in form recently, losing twice to bitter rivals Real Madrid, as well as the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie with AC Milan.

However, they now appear back on track after routing the Rossoneri 4-0 in the second leg and backing that up with victories over Deportivo La Coruna and Rayo Vallecano.

"Nowadays the coach is really important," Messi told TVC Sports. "Since Tito hasn't been here we've really noticed it.

"We respect Jordi Routa because he's our stand-in coach and he's trying to help us win everything we can.

"But our boss was Tito and it was a blow when he went."

The Catalan giants are 13 points clear at the top of La Liga.

Barca forward David Villa hugs Lionel Messi after the Spaniard scored against Rayo Vallecano on March 17, 2013
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1Barcelona22173256173954
2Atletico MadridAtletico23163434112351
3Real Madrid23155366214550
4Villarreal23136429181145
5Sevilla2310763224837
6Athletic Bilbao2310583330335
7Celta Vigo2310583436-235
8EibarEibar239683631533
9Deportivo La CorunaDeportivo2361343128331
10Malaga238692120130
11Getafe2375112635-926
12Real Betis2367101631-1525
13Valencia2351082624225
14Real Sociedad2266102634-824
15Rayo Vallecano2365123047-1723
16Sporting GijonSporting Gijon2264122436-1222
17Espanyol2264122041-2122
18Las PalmasLas Palmas2356122336-1321
19Granada2355132546-2120
20Levante2345142143-2217