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Vilanova to undergo surgery & chemo

Tito Vilanova

Barcelona: FC Barcelona manager Tito Vilanova will have surgery for a throat ailment and undergo several weeks of chemotherapy, the club said Wednesday.

The 44-year-old coach, who had surgery to remove a tumour from the saliva gland in November 2011, was detected with a recurrence of the problem and will undergo surgery on Thursday, Barcelona said in a statement.

Vilanova will likely spend four days in a hospital before undergoing chemotherapy and radiation therapy for about six weeks, the club said.

The statement said Vilanova could be able to remain in charge of the team while undergoing treatment. “During this time, depending on his evolution, Vilanova may be able to combine treatment with his work regime,” the club said.

Assistant coach Jordi Roura is expected to take over the team in the meantime. Barcelona play Valladolid in the Spanish league on Saturday.

Vilanova took over as Barcelona’s team coach from Pep Guardiola last summer after passing medical checks.

Under Vilanova;s guidance, Barcelona have made their best ever start to a season, winning a Spanish record of 15 of their first 16 league games. The club lead the standings with 46 points, nine ahead of Atletico Madrid and 13 in front of arch-rivals Real Madrid.

Vilanova’s son, Adria, used his Twitter account to give thanks for the support being offered his father.

“Thank you all for your support, you are truly great, everything is going to work out,” he tweeted.

Earlier Wednesday, Barcelona cancelled meetings with the club president and journalists after reports of Vilanova’s illness emerged. Several hours later, the club issued the statement confirming the medical situation.

“Very sorry to hear the news,” Barcelona midfielder Xavi Hernandez said on Twitter. “All my strength and support to Tito Vilanova,” Rafael Nadal said on Twitter. “We are all with you so you may overcome this news step.”

This is the second case of a serious illness affecting Barcelona’s squad in recent years. France defender Eric Abidal underwent surgery to remove a tumour from his liver in March 2011. He returned in time to help Barcelona beat Manchester United in the Champions League final in May.

Abidal had to stop playing again last spring when it was determined he needed a liver transplant that he underwent in April. There have been reports he could attempt a return soon. Under both Guardiola and Vilanova, Barcelona won 14 of a possible 19 titles, including two Champions League titles and three Spanish league crowns. (agencies)