Despite chances at both ends, Atletico Madrid and Barcelona played out a feisty goalless draw on Saturday evening.
Lionel Messi and Neymar were both on the bench for the Catalans as they went to Vicente Calderon for a top of the table clash, but they will do so without their star forwards. Alexis Sanchez, Pedro and Cesc Febregas were named as the three forwards, with Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Sergio Busquets in midfield.
The capital club meanwhile went with their usual first choice XI, meaning Diego Godin was fit to play at centre-back and former Barca man David Villa was given a starting berth up front alongside Diego Costa.
And it was Diego Simeone’s men who started the brighter of the two teams – within five minutes, Arda Turan had fooled Jordi Alba on the left-hand side, but his cross couldn’t find a red and white shirt and was deflected over the bar.
The home team were pressing the visitors with an outstanding intensity, and that work rate almost resulted in the first goal, but Costa’s effort from the edge of the area was saved well by Victor Valdes.
After a frenetic start, the tempo of the game decreased massively, and it wasn’t until the 26th minute that Atleti had their next chance on goal. A long ball from Arda found Costa, but Gerard Pique positioned himself well and blocked the striker’s effort.
Tata Martino’s side got themselves back into the match slowly though, and almost broke the deadlock themselves late on, but Pedro’s header went over the bar.
After the break, Messi came on for his first League action in almost two months and almost made an instant impact – his swerving run though was stopped eventually by Thibaut Courtois.
With an hour gone however, the hosts went the closest they came to opening the scoring – a through ball from David Villa found Costa again, but his left foot shot went wide of the far post.
Messi went close late on after a jinking run into the area, but neither team really looked like getting the goal that the game probably deserved.
As it was, the most anticipated match of the season so far ended in stalemate, much to Real Madrid’s delight.
Atletico Madrid 0-0 Barcelona
Atletico Madrid: Courtois, Filipe Luis, Miranda, Godín, Juanfran, Gabi, Tiago (Rodriguez 83), Arda, Koke, Villa (Raul Garcia 77), Diego Costa
Barcelona: Valdés, Jordi Alba, Piqué, Mascherano, Alves, Busquets, Iniesta (Messi 46), Xavi, Alexis (Neymar 67), Pedro (Roberto 84), Cesc