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.

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TeamPGDPTS
1Barcelona286368
2Real Madrid285264
3Valencia283060
4Atletico Madrid283059
5Sevilla281855
6Villarreal281749
7Malaga28044
8Athletic Bilbao28-639
9Real Sociedad28-436
10Celta Vigo28-235
11Rayo Vallecano28-1735
12Espanyol28-534
13Getafe28-1529
14Eibar28-1228
15Elche28-2927
16Deportivo La Coruna28-2126
17Almeria28-1925
18Levante28-2925
19Granada28-2523
20Cordoba28-2618