La Liga: Barca drop points at Bilbao, give Real Madrid more hope

Published: February 11, 2019 12:43:05 | Updated: February 13, 2019 11:08:31

Athletic Bilbao's Inigo Martinez in action with Barcelona's Luis Suarez — Reuters photo

La Liga leaders Barcelona handed Real Madrid more hope in the title race as they drew 0-0 at Athletic Bilbao on Sunday, only avoiding defeat thanks to some outstanding saves by Marc-Andre ter Stegen.

The German keeper twice thwarted forward Inaki Williams and kept out a stinging drive from Markel Susaeta in an intense and entertaining game in which the champions came under heavy pressure throughout.

Barca top the standings with 51 points after 23 games, six ahead of a resurgent Real Madrid, according to a Reuters report.

With Lionel Messi hampered by a recent thigh problem and influential left back Jordi Alba suspended, Barca were far from their usual best, creating few clear opportunities and ending the game defending deep as Bilbao continued to attack.

The impressive hosts were left frustrated by the sending off of Oscar de Marcos in added time for a second yellow card, but there was barely any time left for Barca to take advantage and they had to settle for a second straight league stalemate after last week’s 2-2 draw at home to Valencia.

Barca coach Ernesto Valverde was still upbeat about his side’s position in the title race, even though in the last nine days they have dropped four points.

“We come out of this week just like the last, we are still top, and if my calculations are not wrong, we’ll be top next week,” he told a news conference.

“This is a long season and we have to be top at the end of it.”

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