Real Madrid’s 2-1 defeat to Valencia in midweek opened the door for Barcelona to close the gap in the La Liga title race.
The result left Barca trailing Los Blancos by just a single point entering this weekend. And with the Blaugrana playing first on Sunday, Luis Enrique’s side had the chance to take control of proceedings – for now.
But Atletico Madrid were standing in their way – hardly the easiest of opponents.
Barcelona have enjoyed relative success at the Vicente Calderon in recent years, winning four of their past five games at Atleti’s home, but the reigning champions aren’t in great form at the minute.
They required a late penalty from Lionel Messi to beat Leganes last weekend and were hammered 4-0 by Paris Saint-Germain five days before.
And they struggled to get anything going in the early exchanges of today’s game, with Los Rojiblancos creating a number of opportunities early on.
Marc-Andre ter Stegen was on hand to make a terrific stop to deny Antoine Griezmann’s brilliant effort and Gabi also had a shot saved by the Barca ‘keeper.
But Barca will always have chances to score when they field Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar, and they came close to opening the deadlock in the 38th minute.
MESSI NEARLY SCORED ANOTHER FREE-KICK
The away side won a free-kick just outside the area and Messi has been clinical from set pieces in 2017, already scoring four times from direct free-kicks in the calendar year.
So Diego Simeone must have feared the worst when the Argentine stepped up 19 yards from goal.
His left-footed effort was headed for the top right corner but Jan Oblak produced a wonderful save to palm the ball behind for a corner.
Check it out below.
VIDEO: OBLAK’S SAVE FROM MESSI’S Free-Kick
It’s no wonder Fernando Torres believes Oblak is the best ‘keeper in the world with saves like that.