FC Barcelona manager Tito Vilanova and first team player Thiago Alcântara spoke to the press Tuesday ahead of Vilanova’s UEFA Champions League debut. “Champions League is the most important tournament, alongside with La Liga, so it’s important to win the first game,” Vilanova said. “We need a good start.”
“We have made it into two finals in four years. We need a good start in the group stage, for if not, things might get more complicated in the next round,” Vilanova said. “We have felt really comfortable in this tournament over the last few years, but in European competitons, every game is difficult.”
“Unai has always been trouble for us”
Vilanova showed much respect for rivals Spartak Moskva, especially since the club’s coach, Unai Emery, is well known at Barça. As former manager of Valencia, he always created problems for culés. “We know Unai very well, as he knows us too. He would always make things difficult for us, and his teams showed a lot of courage, never backing down. Spartak is a very dynamic team. They have a good counter-attack and have a player that is a reference in attack, (Emmanuel) Emenike. I am sure they will give us a difficult challenge,” Vilanova said.
Tito said he assumes Messi feels he must avenge the loss of last season’s tournament after missing a crucial penalty against Chelsea in the semifinals. “We all feel motivated by the Champions League and we’re happy to be involved in this tournament. We play the best teams in Europe and about what happened against Chelsea, well, it’s football.We made it to the final a couple times and once we did it in the last minute. Sometimes football giveth, success, and others it taketh away.”
Tito also took the time to not address the press regarding Real Madrid’s 8-point deficit in La Liga. “We can talk about this on Friday, now we have the Champions League to worry about,” Vilanova said. “I do not feel calm because of this lead. I care about what my team can do. I am not worried about them”
Vilanova answered questions regarding players like Thiago Alcântara, who returned to action Saturday at Getafe after four months of recovery. “Thiago is different from everyone else. He has grown up as a football player and he has become more complete. We knew him from younger divisions as a really talented player, but now he has grown up working hard in defense. He has also improved his aerial game, which is difficult because of his height. He is young but has a long successful career ahead of him,” Vilanova said.
Tito also talked about Alexis Sanchez, a player who has taken plenty of criticism in recent weeks. “He had a good preseason. Injuries stopped him from being more influential, but it’s too soon to have an opinion on his season. Once he comes back and keeps playing, I am confident he will help us tremendously. There is nobody like him going for passes into defensive lines. He is also young and I think he will have a good season,” Vilanova said.
When asked about Èric Abidal, the Barcelona manager was positive but vague. “We will wait for Abidal for as long as his recovery takes. We are not setting timelines.”
Regarding Carles Puyol’s injury, Vilanova said it will be hard for the team to have a stable central defense without him. “(Gerard) Piqué and (Javier) Mascherano won’t be able to play in central defense all the time he’s out. But we also have (Marc) Bartra, and (Alex) Song can also play there since he already did that at Arsenal. We will decide when we have to.”
In closing, he took another chance to play down the team’s lead at the top of the La Liga table. “My players are not euphoric. We are used to winning,” Vilanova said. “But we also know good runs do not last forever. We will be criticised when we lose a game.”
Source: Diario Sport, @Banquilleros / Image: Getty