Tito Vilanova / PHOTO: MIGUEL RUIZ - FCB

On the eve of his team’s trip to Rayo, Tito Vilanova warned his players of the dangers they face against a team who are sitting 12th, but only three points adrift of the European places: “the trip to Rayo is the toughest trip so far. Paco Jémez has done a great job. It won’t be easy for us to come out with the ball, because they are a very adventurous side”. The boss also believes that despite last season’s 0-7 result: “Vallecas is never an easy ground to visit and on Saturday they won’t just sit back and wait for us – they’ll go toe to toe with us”.

Happy with team’s performance

Vilanova also stressed that despite his team’s great start, the real judgement will come at the end of the season: “I am very happy with the players’ performances and I have no complaints. Winning titles is important, but it’s maybe even more so to have the confidence that the players will be in there till the end of the season".

Dani Alves will be back from injury for the Rayo game and although Vilanova admitted he’d played a few games with little niggles: “I’m sure that he will end up putting in a great season, whilst he was also optimistic about Gerard Piqué’s recovery: “it’s coming along much better and I think he’ll be back with us pretty soon. Like Piqué, Mascherano will also be missing for the trip to Madrid, after his second yellow card last weekend, which the Club had appealed but which Villanova admitted: “I didn’t hold out much hope that they would rescind”.

“Xavi and Casillas deserve this prize”

This afternoon, Xavi and Iker Casillas will receive the 2012 Prince of Asturias Award for Sport and Villanova believes: “both of them deserve this prize. They are the players who calm things down (when Barça meet Madrid) and create an atmosphere as normal as possible”. The boss also explained that there was no problem in Xavi going off to Oviedo the night before a game: “it’s a sufficiently important title for us to make an exception”.

Cup Tie caution

Vilanova also spoke about Alava -Barça’s rival in the Cup next week: “these cup ties are the ones that most worry me over the whole season. They are putting in a good campaign and I know their coach Nacho González well”.