Vilanova wants to seal up La Liga title

Barcelona coach Tito Vilanova wants to get his hands on the Spanish league title as soon as possible in order to avoid a nail-biting climax to the season.

Tito Vilanova

The Catalan club stumbled in their trophy bid last weekend with a 2-2 draw against Athletic Bilbao, which allowed nearest challengers Real Madrid to cut the gap at the top to 11 points.

If results go their way this weekend, Barca could be crowned champions at home to Real Betis tomorrow with four rounds remaining.

However, it has been a difficult week for Vilanova's men, who suffered a humbling 7-0 aggregate defeat to Bayern Munich in the Champions League semi-final, although the coach is confident they will bounce back.

"We are saddened at how we were eliminated," he told a press conference.

"But what lies ahead for us is very nice. And I would take an 11-point lead with five games to go every year."

Vilanova is now hoping this will be the weekend they can finally secure the title.

"The Betis match is not a final but it is still a very important game because we know that if we win we will be in a good position in the league," he said.

"There is no rush but the sooner we win, the better. What happened in Bilbao was a shame and now we want to make our fans happy. Why wait until the last game if we can win the league before then?"

However, Vilanova is expecting Betis to make life difficult for them tomorrow at the Nou Camp.

He said: "In recent years they have been a costly team for us.

"I have a lot of respect for the work done by (coach) Pepe Mel. They are daring away from home and we have to play with the knowledge this will be a very important step to winning a title we failed to lift last season."

Vilanova will be without goalkeeper Victor Valdes, who has a foot injury, while there are doubts over Pedro after he was struck down by gastroenteritis.

Lionel Messi and Sergio Busquets will undergo late fitness tests.

Seventh-placed Betis are hoping to end a run of three matches without a win as well as close the four-point gap on the European places.

However, coach Mel has a host of absentees to contend with for the trip to Barcelona, with Paulao, Damien Perquis, Angel Lopez, Nacho, Nono, Jose Canes and Casto all sidelined.

In addition midfielder Benat is struggling with a back problem, yet Mel remains hopeful they can at least get on the scoresheet at the Nou Camp.

"They are a big team who have the chance to wrap up the league and come back after a difficult defeat, so they have a double incentive," he told the club's official website.

"I'm not sure we're playing them at the right time but we have to go out there with all the enthusiasm in the world and I'm sure we can score.

"We are all certain Barcelona are going to be the champions and they've earned it. But Betis will try and qualify for Europe and the first step towards achieving that is the game at the Nou Camp."

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