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 Madrid22164257203752
2Barcelona23156263194451
3Sevilla23154446281849
4Atletico MadridAtletico23136443192445
5Real Sociedad2414283732544
6Villarreal23109430151539
7EibarEibar2310583631535
8Athletic Bilbao2310582828035
9Celta Vigo2210393636033
10Espanyol238873031-132
11AlavesAlaves237972228-630
12Las PalmasLas Palmas2477103236-428
13Malaga236893137-626
14Valencia2375113341-826
15Real Betis2266102235-1324
16Deportivo La CorunaDeportivo2247112635-919
17Leganes2346131639-2318
18Sporting GijonSporting Gijon2344152547-2216
19Granada2337132149-2816
20Osasuna2317152452-2810