Barcelona and Atlético handed LaLiga control to Real Madrid after an entertaining scoreless draw at the Camp Nou on Saturday afternoon. Spain’s two highest scoring teams had their chances, but Jan Oblak produced seven saves — including a miracle on Lionel Messi — and Marc-André ter Stegen had six of his own, including three on Luis Suárez.
Diego Simeone said “there’s always a first time for everything in life” when asked pre-match if he could get his first-ever win at the Camp Nou, but the game went according to script with Barça controlling 60% possession and los Colchoneros looking to disrupt the rhythm (26 fouls) and hit on the counter.
Much of Barcelona’s initial threat came from the right-hand side through the partnership of Sergiño Dest and Messi, although the 20-year-old American was never able to get his final ball quite right.
Messi almost did it all himself in the 41st minute with a breathtaking run that came close to being one of the best goals of the Argentine’s legendary career. He collected the ball wide right and proceeded to beat his initial marker on the dribble. He then drifted inside and breezed between two defenders before a magical touch took him past three more.
Messi then aimed a left-footed effort at the near post, but Oblak got his fingertips to it at full-stretch to tip it around the post.
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Ousmane Dembélé entered the match in the 75th minute and looked threatening whenever he got on the ball, but the 23-year-old Frenchman also had the most glaring miss of the second half when his free 85th-minute header went over the bar.
Atlético is top of the table on 77 points and Barcelona moves to second on 75, but Real Madrid plays its game in hand on Sunday against fourth-place Sevilla. If Real wins, los Blancos go top on 77 points with three games to go.
Real holds the tiebreaker (head-to-head points) on both Atlético (2-0 win and 1-1 draw) and Barça (3-1 win and 2-1 win). Sunday’s match between Real and Sevilla is now can’t-miss television, but it’s difficult to bet against Zinedine Zidane’s side now as they traditionally turn into great whites with blood in the water.
That was the case last season when they rattled off 10 straight wins to capture the title, but they’ll have to do it all without captain Sergio Ramos this time, who’s been diagnosed with a hamstring injury.
Real also has the most difficult set of remaining fixtures with every opponent in the top half of the table.
La Liga Title Race 2021 Remaining Fixtures
Real Madrid Remaining Matches
5/9 vs. fourth-place Sevilla
5/13 vs. eighth-place Granada
5/16 vs. ninth-place Athletic Club
5/23 vs. sixth-place Villarreal
Atlético Madrid Remaining Matches
5/12 vs. fifth-place Real Sociedad
5/16 vs. 12th-place Osasuna
5/23 vs. 18th-place Valladolid
Barcelona Remaining Matches
5/11 vs. 13th-place Levante
5/16 vs. 10th-place Celta Vigo
5/23 vs. 20th-place Eibar