It is advantage Real Madrid in La Liga as Atletico Madrid played out an unsatisfactory 0-0 draw at the Nou Camp with title contenders Barcelona. That result leaves Atleti top on 77 points, two points ahead of Barca, with Real Madrid able to go top of the league on head-to-head record, if they beat fourth placed Sevilla tomorrow.
Zinedine Zidane will be one of the only satisfied spectators of the stalemate in which both teams were desperate for all three points. With Luiz Suarez lining up for Atletico and Antoine Griezzman leading the line for Barcelona, we were hardly short of storylines or goalscoring ability in this crucial clash at the top of La Liga.
Despite the home side needing all three points, it was Atleti started well and had the better of the first half as Marc-Andre Ter Stegan kept the scores level. The German goalkeeper pulled off several impressive saves, stopping a Suarez effort with his legs before he got low down to his left to stop Yannick Carrasco.
Clement Lenglet also played his part as the Barca defender managed to stop Angel Correa putting in Mario Hermoso's low cross with a perfectly timed sliding challenge as Bara clung on to their clean sheet, and hopes of winning the league this season.
The standout moment of the first half though, came from Lionel Messi. As Barca failed to create anything, he went it alone. Picking up the ball on that familiar wide right position, he beat one, then drove at the Atleti back line who were retreating. Three touches of the ball left four more defenders beaten before he fired a shot towards goal. Only the fingertips of the best goalkeeper in the world, Jan Oblak, prevented Messi from adding yet another iconic individual goal to his sparkling collection.
This was an Atletico Madrid team who are the best in Europe defensively. They’ve now conceded just 22 goals in 35 league games and yet Messi danced around them like they were mannequins on the training ground. Unfortunately for him, Oblak in the Atleti goal was in no mood to concede as the two battled throughout the game.
Messi saw his second half free-kick effort palmed to safety by the Slovenian as the duo continued their one-on-one battle while Ousmane Dembele came off the bench to head an Alba cross just over the bar late on. Atletico certainly had the better of the first half while Messi and Barca took the second so on reflection, a draw is a fair result - even if it is not all that useful to either side.
One side of Madrid will certainly be celebrating but if Julen Lopetegui can get something against the club that sacked him in 2018, Atletico will still be in pole position to claim their first title since 2014, with just three games to go. For Messi, it appears that his hunt for an eleventh La Liga title is now all but over, unless both Madrid clubs slip up in the final few matches.
We’ve enjoyed a spectacular Spanish title race this term and it still looks likely to go to the final day, but now, the title is unlikely to be returning to Barcelona. Ronald Koeman faces an uncertain future as manager, and for Diego Simeone, the title is no longer in his hands.If Real Madrid win their final four games they will be crowned La Liga champions for the 34th time.