Barcelona coach Tito Vilanova plans to continue in his role after it was announced he will undergo surgery followed by six weeks of chemotherapy.
Earlier today, Barcelona suspended their scheduled media activities for the day amid reports concerning the health of the man who has guided Barcelona to their unbeaten league run this season.
Vilanova, who replaced Pep Guardiola this summer, underwent surgery on a salivary gland last November and as was rumoured earlier, the 44-year-old has suffered a relapse.
He will undergo surgery on his parotid gland tomorrow before six weeks of chemotherapy.
A statement on Barcelona's website explained: “An extension of the pathology has been detected in [Vilanova’s] parotid gland. The manager requires surgery which he will undergo this Thursday. He is expected to remain in hospital for three to four days.
Vilanova is expected to return to work after exiting hospital, although Barcelona admit this will depend upon the state of his health.
"After the surgery, Francesc ‘Tito’ Vilanova will undergo chemotherapy and rediation treatment for approximately six weeks. During this time, and depending on how well he recovers, Vilanova’s treatment may be compatible with his work life," read a statement.
Reports in Spain suggest assistant manager Jordi Roura will take charge of first-team affairs during Vilanova's absence, which is certain to include Saturday's La Liga fixture against Real Valladolid.
Vilanova was out of action for around three weeks after surgery last year, but returned to the dugout to help Guardiola for the last six months of the 2011-12 campaign.
Even before confirmation of Vilanova's condition, support has flooded in, including from biggest rivals Real Madrid.
"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," astatement on the Madrid website read.
Barca midfielder Xavi said on his official Twitter account: "Very sorry to hear the news."
Tennis star Rafael Nadal tweeted: "All my strength and support to Tito Vilanova! We are with you to overcome this new step."
Real Betis said on their official twitter feed: "@BetisOficial and their professionals offer their total support for the coach of FCBarcelona-es, Tito Vilanova."
Athletic Bilbao midfielder Ander Herrera was quoted as saying in AS: "I'm stunned. Is it true? Tito has shown himself to be a fighter, overcoming a very serious illness and I hope that it's going to be the same this time. He has all of my support and that of the club."
MotoGP world champion Jorge Lorenzo, meanwhile, tweeted: "#AnimoTito (encouragement for Tito)."
Vilanova was named as Guardiola's successor in April after it was confirmed that the Barca coach was stepping down to take time away from the game.
Despite huge pressure following in the footsteps of Guardiola, who delivered two Champions League titles and three La Ligas, former assistant Vilanova has been hugely impressive. Barcelona are currently nine points clear in La Liga, dropping just two points in 16 games. They have also progressed to the knock-out stages of the Champions League and hold a 2-0 first-leg lead over Cordoba in their Copa del Rey last-16 tie.
Barca's next game is away to Real Valladolid in La Liga on Saturday for what is their final fixture before the winter break.Reuse content