Barça-Atletico draw boosts Real Madrid’s title chances

Barcelona, May 8 (EFE).- LaLiga leaders Atletico Madrid and second-place Barcelona battled to a 0-0 draw here Saturday, putting Real Madrid in a position to repeat as champions if they win their four remaining matches.

The result leaves the three teams separated by just 3 points and Real Madrid can equal Atleti with a victory Sunday against fourth-place Sevilla.

Though the hosts had 60 percent possession, the shots were roughly even and each side created chances.

It was a game of two halves. While the Colchoneros were by far the more dangerous side in the opening 45 minutes, Barça looked the more likely to score after the break.

Both teams lost players to injury in the first half.

Atleti’s Thomas Lemar left the pitch after hurting his ankle as the match approached the quarter-hour and Barcelona midfielder Sergio Busquets found himself unable to continue in the wake of a head-on-head collision with the visitors’ Stefan Savic.

The Barça medical staff ultimately decided to send Busquets to the hospital for observation.

Home goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen dealt easily with an effort by Lemar in the 3rd minute, but had to work harder to cope with shots from Marcos Llorente, former Barça man Luis Suarez and Yannick Carrasco.

Barcelona defender Clement Lenglet helped out his keeper in the 19th minute, sending Angel Correa’s strike wide.

At the other end, Atleti keeper Jan Oblak had nothing to do until Antoine Griezmann’s attempt in the 29th minute.

Lionel Messi forced a decent save from Oblak in the 41st minute and Atletico’s Felipe fired over the cross-bar right before the break.

Forced to manage by cell phone from the stands by virtue of the red card he picked up in Barça’s last league game, Ronald Koeman replaced Oscar Mingueza with Ronald Araujo to start the second half.

Seconds into the re-start, Felipe fouled Messi to set up a free kick for the hosts on the edge of the area.

The Argentine delivered a good ball into the box, where both Araujo and Lenglet were waiting. The Frenchman decided the chance belonged to him, only to head over the cross-bar.

Atletico reacted, but Suarez missed the target in the 48th minute on what would prove to be his side’s last opportunity of the contest.

Oblak stopped Gerard Pique in the 63rd minute and thwarted Messi on a free-kick four minutes later.

Araujo headed-in a cross from Jordi Alba with 20 minutes left only for the goal to be disallowed because of an offside.

Messi, Griezmann and Alba combined in the 85th minute to set up a free header for late sub Ousmane Dembele, who sent the ball over the bar.

Barcelona’s final chance fell to Messi and the captain’s shot in the 90th minute went just wide as a relieved Oblak looked on. EFE gmh/dr

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