No Tito Vilanova, no problem for Barcelona. In their first match without their manager, who is away from the team after undergoing surgery for a tumor, Barcelona got goals from Lionel Messi, Xavi Hernandez and Christian Tello to beat Real Valladolid 3-1 and head into the Christmas break far atop the La Liga table.
It took a while for Barcelona to start clicking as all their moves in the early going just barely misfired. Passes that would have led to sure goals were barely out of reach and their ingenuity in the final third was a bit lacking. It was not vintage Barcelona, but with all of the possession and Valladolid showing no signs of scored themselves, they hardly had to worry.
Minutes before halftime, Barcelona finally found their stride and it paid off in the form of a Xavi goal. Some brilliant interplay unlocked the Valladolid defense and resulted in a low cross for Xavi in front, who fired it into the net for the opening tally.
With a goal under their belts, Barcelona looked calmer and more assured in the second half. They had a couple chances go begging, but it didn't matter because Messi doubled their lead at the hour mark with his 91st and final goal of 2012. It was another beautiful move, this time almost single-handedly by the Argentinean wizard, who danced through the Valladolid defense before finishing expertly.
Javi Guerra did score in the 89th minute to pull Valladolid within a goal and put a seed of doubt in Barcelona's mind, but it wasn't nearly enough. Tello scored in stoppage time to put the match out of reach and Barcelona were free to settle in for the holidays in good form and comfortably atop the league.