FC Barcelona emerged as the winter champions in the Spanish soccer league for 2012 by notching three more points for an accumulated total of 49 out of 51 possible since the start of the season.

With Saturday night's 3-1 away victory over Valladolid and with just two weeks until the end of the first round - although they still have to play Espanyol and Malaga - the nine-point lead Barca has opened up over their nearest rival, Atletico de Madrid, give the Barcelona team the honorary title of winter champs.

Barca will take a break until Jan. 2, although on Sunday there were several players who worked out on their day off, including Carles Puyol. By then, the injured Cesc Fabregas will be closer to getting back onto the pitch, something that is also expected for coach Francesc "Tito" Vilanova, who is recovering from surgery to remove a tumor.

Fabregas could be back to working out with the team by mid-January.

Barcelona announced on Dec. 19, 2012, that Vilanova was suffering from Parotid gland cancer for the second time, after first being diagnosed with the disease in late November 2011.

He was operated upon on Dec. 20 and will have to undergo about six weeks of chemotherapy and radiation therapy. EFE