Barcelona missed the chance to go top of the table for the second time in 10 days with a goalless draw against Atletico Madrid that puts a serious dent in the team’s title hopes.
Another big game brought another disappointing performance as Barca gave up a host of chances and really struggled to create much at the other end.
The result means Barca haven’t beaten Real Madrid or Atletico this season, while another key game against Granada was lost that really should have been won.
Of course it’s a bit of a miracle Barca are even in the title race in this transitional season but having cut the gap to two points the team has now come up short when it matters most.
Barca had the title in their hands but the prospect of finishing top of the pile has now drifted away, and Ronald Koeman’s future is likely to be in the spotlight once again.
Saturday’s result also doesn’t suit Atletico Madrid. The Rojiblancos remain two points ahead of Barcelona but will drop to second if Real Madrid beat Sevilla tonight.
It’s not been a great week for Madrid, who were dumped out of the Champions League by Chelsea on Wednesday, and saw a laughing Eden Hazard dominate the headlines after the game.
Yet Zinedine Zidane’s side now know they will pip Barcelona and Atletico and retain the title if they win their last four games of the season.
It’s not quite all over yet though. Los Blancos look to have the toughest run-in on paper with Sevilla, Granada, Athletic, and Villarreal still to play.
Are there more twists still to come in the title race?
The only Barcelona player who ever really looked liked scoring was, unsurprisingly, Lionel Messi. Indeed he almost added another memorable goal to his collection after beating six players and going for goal but saw Jan Oblak produce a fine save.
The Barcelona captain managed to be the hosts’ brightest player despite being clearly targeted by Atletico who seemed to take turns in fouling the 33-year-old.
9 – Lionel Messi has been fouled nine times against Atlético de Madrid, the most by a Barcelona player in a LaLiga game since at least 2003/04. Vigilance. pic.twitter.com/n3cF3ThYoe
— OptaJose (@OptaJose) May 8, 2021
Even Luis Suarez was at it on his first return to the Camp Nou in an Atletico shirt. The striker bundled into his good mate in the opening minutes to concede a free-kick inside his half.
Atletico also made sure the supply line between Jordi Alba and Messi was disrupted which helped to ensured the Argentine did not add to his record of 32 goals against the Rojiblancos.
Barcelona also suffered against Atletico after Sergio Busquets was taken off on the half-hour mark after suffering a head injury.
The midfielder was replaced by Ilaix Moriba but his influence on the game was quickly revealed as Barca lost control and saw Atletico began to dominate.
MEDICAL NEWS | Sergio has a facial contusion with an upper maxilla fracture and is progressing favorably. His recovery will determine his availability. pic.twitter.com/meltM8XvMw
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) May 8, 2021
Alfred Schreuder admitted after the draw his team lost control once Busquets had gone off and it was little surprise to see changes made at half-time.
Oscar Mingueza was also taken off at the break, after a difficult first half, and there’s no doubt Barca were better in the second half.
It’s not clear yet if Busquets will miss Tuesday’s game against Levante. The club confirmed he’s suffered a facial fracture, but the midfielder was back in training on Sunday morning in the recovery session.
Another change at half-time saw Ronald Araujo enter the fray and help to firm up a backline that had found it tough going in the opening 45 minutes.
It was something of a surprise to see Araujo left out of the starting XI, but he may well find himself back in the team after an encouraging performance.
Araujo hasn’t quite found his best form since returning from injury but staked a claim on Saturday with a strong defensive performance. He was also a threat at the other end at set-pieces.
Indeed Araujo did manage to put the ball in the back of the net only to see it ruled out for offside.