Barcelona and Atletico Madrid content with draw that allows Real Madrid to close the gap

The sides drew 0-0 in the Spanish capital in a game of few clear chances

Barcelona and Atletico Madrid were satisfied with a share of the spoils after they cancelled each other out in an intense 0-0 draw on Saturday that moved the joint La Liga leaders on to 50 points at the midpoint of the season.

The stalemate at the Calderon, during which genuine scoring chances were few and far between, means Barca still lead on goal difference after 19 matches but it opens the way for third-placed Real Madrid to close to within three points if they can beat mid-table Espanyol later on Sunday (1800 GMT).

Barca coach Gerardo Martino was forced at halftime to bring on Lionel Messi, who only returned to action on Wednesday after a two-month injury absence, after Andres Iniesta suffered a knock to his left knee.

However, not even the introduction of the Argentine World Player of the Year or Brazil forward Neymar, who missed Wednesday's King's Cup game against Getafe due to illness, with around 20 minutes left broke the deadlock as neither made much impact on a resolute Atletico defence.

"The point is positive if we consider that we played at the stadium of a team that had maximum points at home," Martino told a post-match news conference.

"We wanted to win the match but we have nothing to reproach ourselves for," added the Argentine.

"It's not a bad thing to end the first half of the season with 50 points and I have the feeling that the game will make us even stronger."

Martino said he was pleased with the way his players prevented Atletico from launching their trademark counter attacks and their effectiveness in closing down their opponents.

"We were slower in moving the ball around and we were lacking a little in dynamism," he added.

"Nonetheless, in these kinds of matches you can't ignore the strengths of your opponent."

COMPLETELY SATISFIED

Atletico coach Diego Simeone, a compatriot of Martino and Messi who has transformed the team into challengers in Spain and Europe since taking over at the end of 2011, singled out forwards Diego Costa and David Villa for their work rate.

"It was a match in which we tried, using our strengths, to play an intelligent game and I think we did that," he told a separate news conference.

"Barcelona typically score four or five goals a match because they are a team who if you give them a chance they will punish you," added the former Argentina midfielder, who was playing for Atletico the last time they won La Liga in 1996.

"We went close to scoring a few times and I am completely satisfied with the team's work.

"We toiled very hard in defence but without the effort the forwards put in it's impossible to work as a unit.

"We got a good result, we remain in a privileged position and 50 points is a good amount."

Barca and Atletico are next in action later this week in the last 16 of the King's Cup.

Barca have a 4-0 advantage over Getafe when they play their second leg in Madrid on Thursday, while Atletico drew 1-1 at Valencia in last week's first leg and host their La Liga rivals on Tuesday.

Reuters

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine