Barcelona has a nine-point league lead over Atletico Madrid and a 13-point jump on Real Madrid after just 16 games — a gap so whopping that Atletico coach Diego Simeone said Spain’s top league has become ‘‘boring.’’ Although this won’t be how he or the players think, Roura can afford to lose a few games before he will come under sustained pressure for wins. His first match is at Valladolid in the league on Saturday, Barcelona’s last game of 2012.
Barcelona’s announcement this week that Messi, Xavi and Puyol all agreed to renew their contracts also gives the team long-term stability and removes an issue that potentially could have distracted the players and Roura.
Since last month, Barcelona has again been able to field Puyol and Pique in defense together after both recovered from injuries. David Villa also looks like the dangerous forward he used to be before eight months out with a broken leg. And Messi, well, how can more praise be heaped on a player who has scored a record 90 goals in 2012?
So no excuses.
Barcelona should keep winning while Vilanova gets better.
He surely wouldn’t settle for anything less.
John Leicester is an international sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at jleicester(at)ap.org or follow him at http://twitter.com/johnleicester