MADRID - Atletico Madrid and Barcelona remain locked together on 50 points at the top of La Liga after a 0-0 draw at the Vicente Calderon yesterday.
Barca boss Gerardo Martino had named Lionel Messi and Neymar only on the substitutes bench on their respective returns from injury and illness.
However, after a first period devoid of clear-cut chances, Martino introduced Messi at half-time in place of the injured Andres Iniesta. And the four-time World Player of the Year nearly proved decisive as only a fine save from Thibaut Courtois denied him from grabbing the winner nine minutes from time.
Both sides now lie six points clear of Real Madrid, but Los Blancos can reduce that gap with a win away to Espanyol today.
Just like when the sides last met in the second leg of the Spanish Super Cup in August, there was to be no goals as both teams emerged with their title hopes intact.