L'equip celebra un dels cinc gols marcats a Vallecas / FOTO: MIGUEL RUIZ-FCB

This is no ordinary fixture. Valladolid v Barça is the last of 2012 and comes after a rollercoaster week at FCB. It all started on such a high after the amazing performance against second placed Atlético Madrid, putting Barça nine points clear at the top of the table and 13 ahead of Real Madrid. Then came even more wonderful news when it was announced that Messi, Xavi and Puyol would all be extending their contracts. And when Abidal was given medical clearance to start training with the first team once again, it seemed like Christmas had come a week early at the Camp Nou.

But just when the mood at the club couldn’t possibly have been any better, Wednesday brought the shock news that manager Tito Vilanova’s had suffered a relapse in the illness he appeared to have overcome last year, although happily the operation on Thursday went ahead without any problems. So, following an emotional week, Barça now get back onto the pitch as they face Valladolid with assistant manager Jordi Roura taking over in the hotseat.

Great run just goes on

Barça will be looking to extent what is already the best ever start to a Liga season. A win in Valladolid will be their 16th in 17 matches - a run that sees them sitting top with a nine point lead over second place Atletico Madrid and 13 ahead of Real Madrid. Another win tonight would also see them record an astonishing ninth straight win on the road and maintain their 100% away record.

The coaches have taken a 19-man squad to Valladolid with Adriano and Song left behind with minor knocks and Leo Messi still hungry to extend even further his incredible goal scoring record.

Attractive football guaranteed

Valladolid have made an impressive start on their return to the top flight and with an attractive, attacking style they currently sit in mid-table with 22 points. Djukic’s side should provide an attractive and intense test for a Barça team determined to round off 2012 with a special win for their coach.