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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TeamPWDLFAGDPTS
CBarcelona382945112298391
2Real Madrid382864110347690
3Atletico MadridAtletico38284663184588
4Villarreal381810104435964
5Athletic Bilbao381881258451362
6Celta Vigo38179125159-860
7Sevilla381410145150152
8Malaga381212143835348
9Real Sociedad38139164548-348
10Real Betis381112153452-1845
11Las PalmasLas Palmas38128184553-844
12Valencia381111164648-244
13Espanyol38127194074-3443
14EibarEibar381110174961-1243
15Deportivo La CorunaDeportivo38818124561-1642
16Granada38109194669-2339
17Sporting GijonSporting Gijon38109194062-2239
RRayo Vallecano38911185273-2138
RGetafe3899203767-3036
RLevante3888223770-3332