Barcelona defender Eric Abidal send Tito Vilanova his support

Coach to undergo surgery and chemotherapy

Barcelona defender Eric Abidal has offered his support to Tito Vilanova after his return from cancer treatment yesterday was overshadowed by news his coach faces a new fight against the illness.

Vilanova, 44, was due to undergo an operation on his parotid gland today and faces six weeks of chemotherapy.

Barcelona confirmed the news last night, coincidentally, on the same day Abidal returned to training for the first time since he needed a liver transplant in April.

Abidal's return was a significant step in his bid to continue his career, however, he admitted he had been left thinking only about his ailing boss.

"I confirm you that I have started again the collective training with the group," he wrote on his Facebook page today.

"I hope to come back soon on the fields, but I can't stop thinking of our coach, Tito Vilanova: I wish him and his family, a lot of courage!"

Barcelona were due to release a statement on Vilanova later today as he faced his second surgery in just over a year.

Vilanova, who took over from Pep Guardiola in the summer, initially had a tumour removed from his throat in November last year.

Barcelona held a specifically-convened press conference last night in which president Sandro Rosell offered Vilanova the club's unconditional support.

Rosell, who was flanked by on-field leaders Carles Puyol, Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Victor Valdes, revealed assistant manager Jordi Roura would take interim charge, however, he said he expected Vilanova would quickly return to the touchline.

The club even opened the door for Vilanova to return during his recovery, with a statement saying his "treatment may be compatible with his work life".

"Tito is strong, very strong. He's shown us that and we're convinced he'll back with us very soon," Rosell said.

"We want to express our unconditional support to Tito and his family.

"We thank everyone for their support. We have complete confidence in the team. The club is very strong and united, we're capable of overcoming adversity."

Speculation in the Spanish press has already linked Guardiola, who left the club to take a year-long sabbatical in the summer, with a return, but sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta denied any contact had been made.

Barca travel to Real Valladolid on Saturday before the winter break and Zubizarreta emphasised Vilanova, who has led the La Liga leaders to their best ever start, remained in charge.

"Tito is our coach and will continue to be our coach," he said. "Jordi (Roura) will be on the sidelines for Valladolid, but all the rest is pure speculation."

Zubizarreta also expressed his shock at the news, saying: "It was difficult news to hear.

"Tito's only concern has centred on his children and his family. The only person he has not spoken of is himself."

PA

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Isis in Syria: Influential tribal leaders hold secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over possibility of mobilising against militants

Tribal gathering

Influential clans in Syria have held secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over the possibility of mobilising against Isis. But they are determined not to be pitted against each other
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians
Dozens of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen linked to Indian bribery scandal die mysteriously

Illnesses, car crashes and suicides

Dozens of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen linked to Indian bribery scandal die mysteriously
Srebrenica 20 years after the genocide: Why the survivors need closure

Bosnia's genocide, 20 years on

No-one is admitting where the bodies are buried - literally and metaphorically
How Comic-Con can make or break a movie: From Batman vs Superman to Star Wars: Episode VII

Power of the geek Gods

Each year at Comic-Con in San Diego, Hollywood bosses nervously present blockbusters to the hallowed crowd. It can make or break a movie
What do strawberries and cream have to do with tennis?

Perfect match

What do strawberries and cream have to do with tennis?
10 best trays

Get carried away with 10 best trays

Serve with ceremony on a tray chic carrier
Wimbledon 2015: Team Murray firing on all cylinders for SW19 title assault

Team Murray firing on all cylinders for title assault

Coaches Amélie Mauresmo and Jonas Bjorkman aiming to make Scot Wimbledon champion again
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Vasek Pospisil must ignore tiredness and tell himself: I'm in the quarter-final, baby!

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

Vasek Pospisil must ignore tiredness and tell himself: I'm in the quarter-final, baby!
Ashes 2015: Angus Fraser's top 10 moments from previous series'

Angus Fraser's top 10 Ashes moments

He played in five series against Australia and covered more as a newspaper correspondent. From Waugh to Warne and Hick to Headley, here are his highlights
Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

Heavy weather

What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

World Bodypainting Festival 2015

Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

Don't call us nerds

Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high