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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Tables
TeamPWDLFAGDPTS
1Real Madrid6420156914
2Barcelona64111961313
3Atletico MadridAtletico63301221012
4Villarreal633094512
5Athletic Bilbao640296312
6Sevilla6321119211
7Las PalmasLas Palmas63121411310
8EibarEibar631286210
9AlavesAlaves62317529
10Real Betis6222811-38
11Real Sociedad621389-17
12Celta Vigo621358-37
13Leganes6213610-47
14Sporting GijonSporting Gijon6213514-97
15Valencia6204912-36
16Deportivo La CorunaDeportivo612335-25
17Malaga612358-35
18Espanyol6123914-55
19Granada6024715-82
20Osasuna6024513-82