Barcelona andAtletico Madrid could not have done more to help Real Madrid’s title hopes than playing to a 0-0 draw on Saturday afternoon at the Camp Nou.
The result pushes Atletico to 77 points and ensures that they remain in first place in the LaLiga Santander table, with Barcelona in second on 75 points, but Real Marid can overtake both on Sunday with a win against Sevilla ahead of the final three matches of the season.
Barcelona boss Ronald Koeman made just one switch from the team that defeated Valencia in their last outing, with Oscar Mingueza coming in for Ronald Araujo at centre-back, while Atletico boss Diego Simeone brought back Koke and swapped in Felipe for Jose Maria Gimenez in defence.
Some bad luck befell Simeone early on with Thomas Lemar having to limp off with an injury, so Saul Niguez was summoned off the bench to replace the Frenchman.
Atletico would muster the first chance with a Mario Hermoso cross meeting the cutting run of Angel Correa, but Clement Lenglet was alert and deflected the Argentine’s effort wide.
Barcelona had their own share of injury woe, as after a clash of heads with Stefan Savic, Sergio Busquets was unable to continue despite his best efforts and was replaced by Ilaix Moriba.
Atletico were the ones creating the scoring opportunities, and Ter Stegen had to get low to save a shot from Marcos Llorente before doing so again a minute later to prevent former teammate Luis Suarez. The German shot-stopper then had to do well to block a Yannick Carrasco shot and then batted away the rebound, right as Suarez was looking to pounce.
The only Barcelona chance in the first half came unsurprisingly from Messi, who rampaged his way through the Atetico defence before unleashing a left-footed shot that was going to ripple the net if not for the fingertip save of Atletico goalkeeper Jan Oblak.
Mingueza was having a horrid time trying to slow down Carrasco, so Koeman made a change at the break, bringing on Araujo for the Catalan defender to try to get some more protection in the back, especially with Busquets out.
So much of Barcelona’s attack comes through Jordi Alba’s channel on the left, but Atletico’s Kieran Tripper was keeping the left-back in check until just after the hour mark, when Alba got loose and crossed for Ilaix, whose shot was deflected at the last moment by Hermoso.
Barcelona were getting more into the Atletico half and Oblak had to be ready to paw away a Messi free kick from the outside corner of the area.
Simeone’s next substitution was for his first sub, with Joao Felix on for Saul, followed by Geoffrey Kondogbia for Correa, while Sergi Roberto and Ousmane Dembele replaced Sergino Dest and Pedri respectively.
Things stood on a knife’s edge entering the final 10 minutes and Dembele looked set to break the deadlock with a late goal, but he headed over the crossbar. Messi also had one final look via a free kick, but he just missed the top left corner of net, leaving both teams pondering whether they had let their LaLiga Santander title chances pass them by for good.