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

PROMOTED VIDEO
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.

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links