Barcelona - Barcelona missed the chance to open up a three-point lead at the top
of La Liga as they were held 0-0 by local rivals Espanyol in a heated
Catalan derby on Saturday.
Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez hit the
woodwork either side of half-time for the visitors, but Espanyol's
physical approach was rewarded with a first point against Barca in eight
Atletico Madrid can leapfrog Barca to the top of the
table with victory over Levante later on Saturday, whilst Real Madrid
now trail the European champions by three points ahead of their trip to
Valencia on Sunday.
The first of three meetings between the sides
in 10 days got off to a frenetic start with Espanyol forcing Barca onto
Their best chance came from a set-piece, though,
when Alvaro Gonzalez's header was brilliantly stopped by Claudio Bravo
and Gerard Pique hooked the ball to safety off the line.
star front three of Messi, Suarez and Neymar combined for 137 of a
record 180 goals in 2015, but they didn't come to life until midway
through the first half when Neymar's dangerous cross fell just behind
Messi then struck the angle of post and bar with an almost
perfect free-kick as Barca began to take control just before the break.
Espanyol had another chance to take a shock lead seven minutes into the
second period when Hernan Perez poked a shot just wide after a
lung-bursting run into the Barca box.
The hosts had another slice
of luck when Suarez could only strike the outside of the post after
rounding Pau Lopez and turning away from Gonzalez moments later.
should have done better when he fired straight at Lopez when well
placed on the edge of the area and the Espanyol 'keeper made another
comfortable save from Neymar's acrobatic effort as they restricted Barca
to surprisingly few clear openings in the final stages.
closest they came to a dramatic winner was another vicious Messi
free-kick from long range that dipped inches wide of the target a minute
from time as Barca failed to score for the first time in La Liga this