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Barca hand opportunity to Real Madrid after Sevilla stalemate

Real Madrid have a chance to go back to the summit of La Liga.

Disappointment for Lionel Messi and his Barcelona team-mates.
Disappointment for Lionel Messi and his Barcelona team-mates.
Image: Angel Fernandez

BARCELONA MADE THE first slip in the title race since La Liga’s return by drawing 0-0 against Sevilla on Friday and handing Real Madrid the chance to regain top spot this weekend. 

After their emphatic 3-0 win over Valencia on Thursday, Madrid will move level on points with Barca if they beat Real Sociedad on Sunday and go above the Catalans due to their superior record head-to-head.

Yet Real Sociedad are still in the hunt for Champions League qualification and will offer Madrid no guarantees on Sunday while games against Getafe, Athletic Bilbao and Villarreal mean there are still plenty of hurdles for Zidane’s team to overcome.

Barcelona though would appear to have the tougher run-in, with Athletic Bilbao, Atletico Madrid, Villarreal and local rivals Espanyol coming up.

Messi was well-contained by Sevilla and it could be the Argentinian was feeling the effects of a third consecutive 90 minutes in nine days.

Setien chose not to rest his captain in either of two comfortable wins over Leganes or Real Mallorca.

Instead, Antoine Griezmann dropped to the bench, with Martin Braithwaite preferred in the front three alongside Messi and Luis Suarez, who made his first start since January after recovering from a knee injury.

Sevilla’s Jules Kounde shot just wide of the post early on but Barcelona controlled the opening 30 minutes, even if chances were few and far between.

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Messi’s curled free-kick was headed off the line by Kounde and Braithwaite almost had a tap-in when Tomas Vaclik spilled, but the ball was hacked away.

The half ended with a scuffle and Messi was at the heart of it, squaring up to and then pushing over Sevilla’s centre back Diego Carlos. Messi was unhappy with Carlos’ challenge on Suarez but escaped punishment.

Ever Banega came on at half-time for Sevilla and gave them more purpose in midfield. Munir El Haddadi’s shot from the angle was palmed away by Ter Stegen.

The game opened up in the final 15 minutes as Jordi Alba made a crucial block to prevent Munir’s pass setting up an easy finish in the middle.

Alba might then have teed up a winner too but Suarez swept the defender’s pull-back over the bar.

Sergio Reguilon, on loan at Sevilla from Madrid, had the best chance but he failed to connect with his weaker right foot.

Earlier, Gerard Moreno’s winner gave Villarreal a 1-0 win away at Granada, putting them within touching distance of the top four.

Real Mallorca claimed a 1-1 draw against fellow strugglers Leganes thanks to a stunning late free kick from Oscar Rodriguez.
© – AFP 2020  

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