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Barcelona blow chance to move second in La Liga

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Barcelona are yet to lose away from home in La Liga this season, winning seven and drawing six
Photo credit: Getty Images

Barcelona missed a crucial opportunity to capitalise on La Liga standings, settling for a goalless draw against a resolute Athletic Bilbao side.

Despite Girona’s loss at Mallorca, Barcelona’s failure to secure a win means they remain in third place in the league table.

Athletic Bilbao implemented a solid defensive strategy from the start, effectively neutralising Barcelona’s attacking threats and aiming to exploit opportunities on the counter.

Joao Cancelo came closest to breaking the deadlock with a powerful 40-yard effort, only to be denied by Athletic’s Yeray Alvarez, who cleared the ball off the line.

A victory would have propelled them to second place, given Girona’s defeat, but Bilbao’s well-executed defensive game plan thwarted the visitors’ attempts.

Despite controlling possession, the visiting side struggled to create clear openings, and Athletic Bilbao, though limiting their attacking chances, couldn’t capitalise on counterattacks.

In the second half, the pattern of play persisted, with both teams building up their attacks but faltering in the final third.

The draw comes at an inconvenient time for Barcelona, especially with key players Frenkie de Jong and Pedri leaving the field with injuries.

With the second leg of their Champions League last-16 tie against Napoli on the horizon, Barcelona manager Xavi will be concerned about the fitness of his squad.

The weekend results, including Real Madrid’s draw at Valencia, had offered Barcelona an opportunity to narrow the gap at the top to just six points. However, the stalemate against Athletic Bilbao leaves the defending champions in third place, eight points behind leaders Real Madrid.

Athletic Bilbao, positioned fifth in the league, face a challenge to rejoin the top-four race, now trailing Atletico Madrid by five points after Atletico’s 2-1 victory over Real Betis earlier in the day.

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