Barcelona has spent the last 56 rounds at the top of La Liga. After Saturday's much anticipated match between the Blaugrana and Atlético Madrid, they will remain there for a 57th week. Despite good chances for both teams, the defenses ruled the day as Barca and Atléti played to a scoreless draw.
Atlético Madrid got off to a strong start, taking the game right to Barcelona and keeping them off the ball and under heavy Pressure. Atléti nearly took an early lead in the 5th minute when Arda Turan drove past Jordi Alba in the box and dribbled along the end line before centering the ball. Gerard Piqué was in a good spot, though, and headed the ball over the crossbar.
Around the 15th minute Barca finally wrestled away possession from the home side and immediately slowed the match down with endless series of passes around the compact Atléti defense. Diego Costa and David Villa were even back defending, positioned all the way back to the top of the defensive third at times. The effect was that while Barca had more of the ball, there was no room to pass through.
Piqué was the man again in the 26th minute, cutting across Costa after the Atléti striker had skillfully chested down a long ball as he moved into the Barca box. Piqué caught up with Costa and stuck out a boot, deflecting the ball out of play. Three corner kicks later, a cross headed down by Miranda towards the far post was put just wide of the post by Costa.
Atléti generated another dangerous chance in the 59th minute on the break but again were off target. A turnover in the midfield led to the break as Turan fed the ball to Costa on the edge of the 18-yard box. Costa was forced to turn his shot back towards the far post, against his momentum, rolling it just wide of the post.
Barcelona's first really good chance of the match came in the 69th minute when Alba picked out Messi in the middle of the Atlético box. Messi's headed attempt was poor, though, spinning well wide to the right of Thibaut Courtois' goal.
Ultimately Diego Simeone got the game he wanted -- minus a winning goal of course -- as the physicality of Atlético prevented Barcelona from having extended time in control of the ball. Combine that with a stout defensive performance that gave Barca virtually no space in the attacking third all day and you get a scoreless draw.
No winner means status quo at the top of the table. Barcelona stays ahead of Atléti on goal differential. In fact the real winner might be Real Madrid, who can close within three points of both clubs with a win over Espanyol on Sunday.
Atlético Madrid: Courtois, Filipe Luis, Miranda, Godín, Juanfran, Gabi, Tiago (Rodriguez 83'), Arda, Koke, Villa (Garcia 77'), Diego Costa
Barcelona: Valdés, Alves, Piqué, Mascherano, Alba, Busquets, Xavi, Iniesta (Messi 45'), Pedro (Roberto 82'), Sánchez (Neymar 67'), Fàbregas