Vilanova in the pre-match press confrence before tomorrow's game against Spartak. PHOTO: MIGUEL RUIZ-FCB.

Tito Vilanova gave his first Champions League pre-match press conference as FC Barcelona’s first team manager this afternoon. The FCB coach noted that his team’s 100 per cent run in the Liga “should be given the importance it deserves,” but he quickly played down the idea that Barça have an insurmountable lead: “Win or lose, it’s of no use to look back.” He added: “The Champions League is another competition, I’ll talk about the Liga on Friday. We have to be on guard from the first moment in the Champions League. We know from experience because we’ve had to play complicated pre-tournament qualifiers before.”

Starting off on the right foot

Vilanova urged his players to give the team’s debut in the 2012/13 Champions League the importance it deserves: “The first match at home is very important. We won’t be trailing behind the other teams in the group if we win. Barça has been comfortable in the Champions League in recent years, but we know that it’s a very difficult competition.” Despite clinching five consecutive semi-final berths, the manager rubbished the “favourites” label. He did, however, say that Barça are “a team that should be kept in mind,” but not favoured. “It’s too soon to make any predictions, there are clubs that have reinforced themselves really well. Last year United and City were eliminated in the group stage,” he said.

The manager also played down the fact that the final of the Champions League will be at Wembley this year, a stadium where Barça lifted two of its European titles. “What’s truly important is that we take it a game at a time. If we’re lucky enough to play in that stadium, then we’ll talk. It’s too soon to talk about it now.”

A well-known rival

Vilanova then turned his attention to the challenge at hand, Unai Emery’s Spartak Moscow. “They have a good team, they’re very good on the counter and their reference point up top, Emenike, is dynamic. I’m sure they won’t make it easy for us,” he said. The FCB manager also talked about past matches against Emery: “He’s always been a very complicated manager, courageous. He always made his players pressure us high up the pitch and I have the impression that he’ll do that tomorrow.”

Praise for Thiago

Tito Vilanova is extremely pleased with Thiago Alcántara’s return to competitive play: “Thiago is a different kind of player. He’s much more complete now than he was before. He works hard and he’s improved tremendously in his areal play. In addition, he’s also a very young player and he has a lot of potential.”