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Puyol backs Vilanova to 'continue the project'

April 28, 2012 -- Updated 2200 GMT (0600 HKT)
Barcelona captain Carles Puyol has given his public support to Pep Guardiola's replacement Tito Vilanova
Barcelona captain Carles Puyol has given his public support to Pep Guardiola's replacement Tito Vilanova
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Barcelona captain offers his support to Pep Guardiola's replacement saying he's the "ideal man"
  • Departure of Guardiola "a big blow" but softened by Tito Vilanova's appointment
  • Barcelona face Rayo Vallecano in Sunday; Real Madrid host Sevilla
  • In serie A, Napoli's 2-2 draw against Roma dents Champions League qualification hopes

(CNN) -- Barcelona captain Carles Puyol says Tito Vilanova is "the ideal man" to replace Pep Guardiola as Barcelona coach.

Assistant manager Vilanova was named as Guardiola's replacement after the 41-year-old announced Friday that he was stepping down as coach at the end of the season.

"Tito knows the team like nobody else, he knows its philosophy through and through," said Puyol.

Drained Guardiola quits

"He is the ideal man to continue the project. The departure of Guardiola is a big blow, but the fact that Tito has succeed him softens it somewhat."

The 34-year-old defender, who has captained the club since 2004, also extended his gratitude to his outgoing coach.

Guardiola to end Barcelona reign

"I would like to thank Pep for everything he has given us, he leaves us a lot in terms of football, a manner of understanding, of respecting ones opponent.

"He laid down a before and an after in football. Now life goes on."

Ten-man Chelsea stun Barcelona

Guardiola will be in charge for Barcelona's away meeting with Rayo Vallecano on Sunday -- a match they must win if they are to keep alive their slim hopes of retaining the La Liga title.

If Barcelona lose and Real Madrid beat Sevilla in Sunday's early kick-off, Jose Mourinho's side will be crowned champions.

In Saturday's La Liga fixtures, Levante moved back into the top four on Saturday with a 3-1 over Granada.

Second-half goals from Arouna Kone, Xavi Torres and Valdo helped see Levante move up a place ahead of Malaga, who entertain Valencia on Sunday.

He is the ideal man to continue the project. The departure of Guardiola is a big blow, but the fact that Tito has succeed him softens it somewhat
Carles Puyol

Sporting Gijon kept their slim hopes of a avoiding the drop alive with a convincing 3-0 win away to Espanyol.

The result moves them up to 18th on 34 points ahead of Real Zaragoza who play Europa League finalists Athletic Bilbao on Sunday.

But Racing Santander's relegation from La Liga was confirmed on Saturday as they went down to a 3-0 defeat at Real Sociedad.

Mid-table Mallorca moved above Getafe with a 3-1 win.

Meanwhile in Serie A, Napoli's quest for Champions League football next season suffered a blow as they were held to a 2-2 draw at Roma.

The result only moves them level on 55 points with Lazio who can consolidate third place with a win at sixth-placed Udinese on Sunday.

Any hopes Catania have of playing in the Europa League next season appear to be fading after they could only draw 1-1 draw with Palermo.

The draw keeps Vincenzo Montella's men in eighth, five points adrift of sixth-place.

Mid-table Chievo also drew, playing out a goalless draw with Cagliari.

Serie A leaders Juventus are in action on Sunday away to second-from-bottom Novara while title rivals AC Milan travel to Siena.

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