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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1Barcelona362745104297585
2Atletico MadridAtletico36274560164485
3Real Madrid362664105327384
4Villarreal361810844311364
5Athletic Bilbao361771255441158
6Celta Vigo36169115057-757
7Sevilla361410124943652
8Malaga361112133433145
9Valencia361111144444044
10Las PalmasLas Palmas36127174449-543
11Real Sociedad36119164247-542
12EibarEibar36119164656-1042
13Real Betis361011153150-1941
14Espanyol36117183667-3140
15Deportivo La CorunaDeportivo36718114359-1639
16Granada3699184265-2336
17Rayo Vallecano36811174870-2235
18Getafe3698193564-2935
19Sporting GijonSporting Gijon3698193761-2435
20Levante3678213466-3229