Barca give fresh hope to La Liga rivals after Bilbao stalemate

Bilbao: Lionel Messi was wanting health and Barcelona lacked spark as a goalless draw away to Athletic Bilbao on Sunday supplied recent hope to their rivals within the title race.

A thigh harm had restricted Messi to 27 minutes towards Actual Madrid on Wednesday and whereas he performed the total match at San Mames, Barca's assistant coach Jon Aspiazu had admitted earlier than kick-off he was not but 100 per cent.

In all chance, he stayed on as a result of his staff wanted him however Messi was not at his finest and neither had been Barcelona, who would even have misplaced had it not been for Marc Andre ter Stegen's beautiful late save to disclaim Inaki Williams.

The draw makes it three video games with no win for La Liga's leaders, whose benefit continues to be six factors however now with Actual Madrid their closest challengers, after they beat Atletico on Saturday.

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That was Actual's fifth league victory on the bounce and simply as they’ve gained momentum, Barca look like shedding theirs, at a vital juncture, with extra stern exams to return.

After Actual Valladolid at dwelling subsequent weekend, Ernesto Valverde's aspect journey to Lyon within the Champions League and Sevilla within the league. They then face two Clasicos in 4 days, one within the Copa del Rey, and each on the Santiago Bernabeu.

Accidents haven’t helped. Messi was picked however not totally recovered whereas Ousmane Dembele was match sufficient just for the bench, having shaken off an ankle harm.

The struggling Philippe Coutinho retained his place alongside Luis Suarez and Messi up entrance however Arturo Vidal got here in for the injured Arthur Melo and Nelson Semedo began at left again, with Jordi Alba suspended.

Bilbao had the higher of the early levels as Yuri Berchiche flashed simply broad after a poor move from Vidal whereas Markel Susaeta's drive pressured the leaping Ter Stegen into an acrobatic save.

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Barcelona settled into the sport however had been by no means in management. Nonetheless, they twice ought to have scored, with Messi and Suarez each responsible of lacking.

First, Suarez peeled free on the again put up however glanced broad from Messi's cross after which Messi hit the crossbar, the aim gaping after Iago Herrerin had rushed out to intercept Nelson Semedo.

The sport was frantic and Bilbao had been greater than holding their very own. Raul Garcia's end was blocked and Mikel San Jose's effort whistled inches outdoors of the put up.

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In between, Barca had loved their finest spell in the beginning of the second half however the gaps all the time appeared to shut across the penalty space they usually struggled to discover a method by.

Dembele changed Coutinho with simply over 10 minutes left however Bilbao had one of the best probability to win it. Iker Muniain squared for Williams, who seemed sure to attain after wriggling freed from Gerard Pique. As a substitute, Ter Stegen shot out his proper hand, in some way denying the striker from eight yards.

De Marcos obtained a second yellow card in injury-time for a handball however there was no time for Barce to really feel the profit. Bilbao held on.

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