La Liga’s top two sides could not be separated as Atletico Madrid and Barcelona played out to a 0-0 stalemate at the Vicente Calderon on Saturday.
Tata Martino opted for a forward line of Pedro, Alexis Sanchez and Cesc Fabregas and named superstars Neymar and Lionel Messi on the bench for this top of the table La Liga clash.
Diego Simeone’s men started off strongly at the Vicente Calderon, and had the Catalan giants under pressure from the fifth minute of the game with Gerard Pique’s header preventing Diego Costa a tap in at the back post, following a cross from midfielder Gabi.
In-form goal-getter Costa then combined well with former Barca striker David Villa before firing a half-volley straight at the Catalan side’s goalkeeper Victor Valdes with seven minutes on the clock.
Barca then seemed to grow in confidence after weathering the early onslaught from their hosts and started to dominate possession with Pedro forcing a save out of young Belgium goalkeeper Courtois in the 18th minute for their first chance of the game.
Pique then tried his luck in the 39th minute of the game when the central defender let fly from way out of the box, but again the young shot-stopper on-loan from Chelsea did well to parry the ball out of play for a corner.
Martino then decided to bring on talisman Messi at the half-time interval to inspire his side to find an opening and break the deadlock in Madrid.
Atletico had the best chance of the second period on the hour mark when Costa was played through by Ardo Turan but the striker could only fire his left-footed shot wide of the target.
Brazilian striker Neymar was then brought off the bench to replace Chilean striker Sanchez in the 67th minute as Barca looked to find a way past Simeone’s well drilled defence.
Two minutes later and Messi came close when he played Alba through on the left and then got on the end of the wide-man’s cross only to header just wide.
Valdes was then called into action in the 80th minute of the game when Turan produced a spectacular volley but the Barca keeper did well to save low to his right.
Messi came close once more in the final few minutes of the game but Courtois again thwarted the Argentine on his return from injury.
Neither side though could find the opener and breakdown each other’s defence and had to settle for a point each, leaving them tied on 50 points at the top of the table.