Barcelona coach Tito Vilanova was released from hospital yesterday, two days after undergoing throat surgery to remove a tumour – giving the team a boost just ahead of the league game at Real Valladolid.
Players were informed of Vilanova’s discharge shortly before the game and went on to win 3-1 thanks to goals by Lionel Messi, Xavi Hernandez, and Cristian Tello, extending their league-record start of 16 victories in 17 matches.
They were further boosted by Real Madrid’s 3-2 defeat at Malaga, which leaves Barca 16 points clear of Real and nine ahead of second-placed Atletico Madrid.
Assistant Jordi Roura was on the sideline for the game in place of Vilanova.
“We were in the dressing room when they told us,” Roura said. “We told the entire team and it was well received. It was a hard match emotionally because of all that has happened this week.”
Roura said Vilanova had helped choose the team.
Barcelona announced on Wednesday that Vilanova, left, needed surgery after doctors had discovered the reappearance of a tumour. He is expected to undergo around six weeks of chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
In Italy, Lazio moved up into second with a 1-0 triumph at Sampdoria. With Inter being held to a 1-1 draw at home to Genoa earlier in the day, the capital club are now eight points behind leaders Juventus, who beat Catania 3-1 on Friday.