Barcelona head coach to have cancer surgery

Barcelona coach Tito Vilanova will undergo surgery on Thursday after it was confirmed he faces a second battle against cancer. The 44-year-old coach had a cancerous tumour removed from his throat in November 2011, but now he will have to go through the ordeal again, including six weeks of chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

Barca expect Vilanova to be in hospital for up to four days, but a club statement read he "could be able to mix work with his treatment". Assistant coach Jordi Roura will take charge of the team for now.

In a news conference on Wednesday, Barcelona president Sandro Rosell said: "We want to express our unconditional support to Tito and his family. Tito is strong, very strong - he's shown us that and we're convinced that he'll be back with us soon. We have complete confidence in the team. The club is very strong and very united, we're capable of overcoming adversity."

Barcelona sports director Andoni Zubizarreta stated that the club won't bring in a replacement from outside on an interim basis. "Tito is the coach, and continues to be so," Zubizarreta said, dismissing rumours Barcelona may have contacted Vilanova's predecessor, Pep Guardiola.

Fierce Barcelona rivals Real Madrid posted a message of support for Vilanova on their website, which read: "Real Madrid want to express their support and best wishes for the coach of FC Barcelona, Tito Vilanova, and wish him a very rapid recovery. Real Madrid offer their support to his club and to all his family."

Former Barcelona striker Gary Lineker tweeted: "Very sorry to hear Tito Vilanova, the Barca coach, is undergoing surgery after a cancer relapse. Thoughts are with him."

Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero tweeted: "We support you, #AnimoTito! We wish you the strength to overcome this moment."

Former tennis world number one Rafael Nadal, a famous Real Madrid fan, tweeted: "All my strength and support for Tito Vilanova! We are all with you to overcome this next hurdle."

Tito Vilanova was Pep Guardiola's assistant before replacing the former Spain midfielder, who has taken a sabbatical from football, in June. Since taking charge of the club, Vilanova has won 23 of his 27 matches in all competitions. Barcelona currently are nine points clear of second-placed Atletico Madrid in the La Liga table after 15 victories in their 16 matches in the Spanish top division. They have also qualified for the knockout stages of the Champions League.

Barcelona are the favourites to win the Champions League this season, Bet365 have them at 9/4, and they are priced at 1/25 to win the Spanish League this season.

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