Tito Vilanova: “Benfica is our most important game”

Tito Vilanova: “Benfica is our most important game”

FC Barcelona manager Tito Vilanova, who has managed to capture maximum points so far in La Liga, spoke today on many matters before the Champions League match against SL Benfica. The coach said he thought the game Tuesday against Benfica is more important than the upcoming El Clásico on Sunday. Find out what El Mister’s thinks about Alex Song’s new role, scoring in Lisbon and getting the most out of Cesc Fàbregas after the jump.

The FC Barcelona manager reminded everyone that with only six matches to play in the group stages of the Champions League there is no margin for error. “The most important game is the one this Tuesday. The game at the end of the week against Madrid comes later. The next match is always the most important, and in this competition any setback can really complicate qualification to the next round.”

“It’s still early days”

Vilanova said he did not believe this is a key week for his team in terms of title aspirations. “Winning these two games will not win us trophies. We’re only just getting started. Having said that, a win in Benfica’s Estádio da Luz would give us a huge confidence boost to take into El Clásico.”

“Winning here is a challenge”

The Catalan coach indicated he did not trust the declarations of the opposing coach, Jorge Jesus, that Benfica will be playing for a draw. “Benfica are playing at home, they are a big team and they will be going for the win. I do not think they will park the bus, but if they do, we’ll be ready for it. I am sure that they want to win. In the last two visits here, Barcelona has not scored. They have dangerous players and play well down the wings.” Jesus alluded to the fact that Barcelona has yet to score a goal on this pitch adds another incentive. “It makes it a bigger challenge. Our players like challenges.”

“The ability to comeback says a lot about us”

Vilanova conveyed his satisfaction at his side’s ability to react, after having won under amazing circumstances in the last two games against Granada CF and Sevilla FC. “The ability to come back in games puts us in great stead; the will to fight to win each match. It says a great deal.”

“Thiago gave us things that others could not”

The manager did not give any hints about his lineup. “After training, we will see,” he said. Vilanova mentioned nothing about the possible selection of Carles Puyol, Andrés Iniesta or Adriano, who all recently recovered from injuries. However, he regretted the injury of Thiago, who faces two months of recovery from knee-ligament damage, “Thiago was coming back from a long injury layoff and was proving to be very helpful for the team. It’s always a problem to lose a player like him. He gives us what others cannot, and now we have fewer options of rotation.”

“Song started out as a centre back”

Vilanova admitted the absenses of Piqué and Puyol rushed the adaptation of one of his two new signings, central-midfielder Alex Song, into the heart of the defence. The return of the captain, though, could return Song to a midfield position. “Song started his career as a centre back, and then he was converted into an anchor man. The injuries forced our hand, otherwise we would not have put him there so early in the season. If there are no more injuries, we will see where he will play.”

“Puyol’s mentality”

With this in mind, the coach chose to accelerate the time it would usually take for Puyol to recover from his injury, “It’s thanks to his mentality, his desire to win and the amount of hours he has dedicated that he can return so quickly.”

“It’s in our best interest to have Cesc close to the penalty box”

Vilanova also made a point to emphasise the work being put in by Fábregas, whose goals made a huge difference in the comeback in Andalucia, “We give him the freedom to roam to arrive into the area and that interests us a lot. Getting him into higher positions allows him to score for us, like he did against Sevilla.”

Source: EMD, Sport; Image: Miguel Ruiz/FCB