Barcelona have handed Real Madrid a boost with their goalless draw against Athletic Club, as their lead at the top of LaLiga Santander is now just six points.
Leo Messi returned but could provide little inspiration to his teammates who found it difficult against a solid Basque defence.
Barcelona have dropped four of the last six points available, failing to capitalize on Atletico Madrid’s two defeats and have therefore given Real Madrid reason to believe they can pull off a miraculous comeback in the title race. Their six-point lead over second place has not changed since last week but the opponent has, and the momentum has evidently slowed down.
Marc Andre ter Stegen proved to be vital once again at San Mames, first denying Susaeta’s long range curler with a fine stop before making another crucial stop from Inaki Williams’ strike late on.
Iker Muniain was a surprise addition in the second half and made a positive impact on his Athletic side, with bursts of energy in the final third which gave Barcelona’s defence something to think about.
Semedo, playing on the opposite side of defence to the one he is familiar with, did a fine job on a tough ground, with lung-busting runs forward and solid actions in defence. He outshone Sergi Roberto on the right, and validated Ernesto Valverde’s decision to use him as a replacement for Jordi Alba.
Arturo Vidal put in another concerning performance in midfield, with poor decision making and even worse accuracy in his passes. Youngster Carles Alenamade far more of an impact in his cameo, and the Chilean will need to up his game if he is to turn his fortunes around.