Barcelona has been rocked by the news that head coach Tito Vilanova could be forced to step down from his role, after it emerged he has suffered a relapse of a tumor he had last year.
The 44-year-old, who took over from Pep Guardiola earlier this year, underwent emergency surgery in November 2011 on his parotid gland, and widescale reports from Spain say his tumor has become malignant again.
Vilanova has guided the Blaugrana to the best-ever start in La Liga, which has seen them go unbeaten for 16 games, and sit atop of the table with 46 points, holding a 13-point lead over archrival Real Madrid.
News of his health problems come only one day after defender Eric Abidal got the green light to make his comeback, after spending the majority of 2012 on the sidelines due to a liver transplant.
Barca intially declined to comment on the matter, cancelling a Christmas lunch with the media. However on Wednesday afternoon, Barcelona confirmed that Vilanova will undergo treatment for cancer.
The Catalan club has confirmed that Vilanova will be taking a hiatus from the game while he undergoes chemotherapy and radiation treatment that is scheduled to last around six weeks.
A Barcelona statement read:
“In the process of monitoring the parotid gland, there has been an extension of his condition that will require surgery.”
The coach will undergo the surgery on Thursday and is expected to be hospitalized for three to four days.
Vilanova had made an excellent start to his career as Barca coach after taking them to the top of La Liga and dropping just two points from their first 16 games.Further reports suggest that the Catalan giants have denied contact with Pep Guardiola and Luis Enrique about the possibility of replacing Vilanova.