Barcelona captain Carles Puyol believes returning defender Eric Abidal can inspire head coach Tito Vilanova.
Vilanova underwent surgery on Thursday and will go on to have chemotherapy after suffering a recurrence of a tumour in his salivary gland.
The club have said they expect him to return in five to six weeks.
Abidal, meanwhile, returned to training on Wednesday after undergoing a liver transplant in April, and Puyol feels his coach can draw strength from the defender’s plight.
“News like this is always going to be a heavy blow,” Puyol said.
“You can never be prepared to receive news like this. But the example of Abi (Abidal), who returned to training with us after being given the green light to play again, has given the squad strength and I’m sure it will also help Tito.
“His example is a lesson not only to us but to everybody unfortunate enough to suffer with this disease, that with a fighting spirit you can overcome it and compete at the highest level.”
Puyol also insisted he is looking forward to facing Milan in the last 16 of the UEFA Champions League.
“Personally speaking, I am very content. I said the other day that I would have liked to play against Milan and now we have drawn them,” he said.
“It’s not because it will be an easy game, which it definitely won’t be, but because it is a team I have always liked and I have always enjoyed playing there.
“It’s an incredible stadium and I am sure it will be a great couple of matches.”