Mascherano: We never imagined Tito would be back so soon

The Barcelona midfielder has been shocked by his coach's rapid recovery since undergoing surgery for cancer a month ago, and is expecting a tough match against Espanyol
Barcelona midfielder Javier Mascherano says he and his team-mates had never imagined that coach Tito Vilanova would be back with them so soon.

The coach underwent surgery to remove a cancerous tumour in December, leaving team affairs in the hands of assistant Jordi Roura, but has been taking training recently.

"After everything that we have experienced, the week before the game against Valladolid we did not think that Tito could be back with us so soon," he said at an open training event for club members.

"Sharing the only open training session of the year is a special day for the club and for us, and that so many people attended is great. We are not used to it and it makes it a special day."

The 28-year-old went on to speak about his side's next fixture, a subject which he recently touched upon in an interview with the media.

"It's going to be a very difficult game, they're a rival who need points and have improved after a change of coach."

The Blaugrana currently sit top of the La Liga table after amassing 49 points in their 17 fixtures so far this season.