Barca remains on top

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AFP Photo.

MADRID, Spain — Barcelona slipped up for the third time in a week but stay on top of La Liga after Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid cancelled each other out at the Santiago Bernabeu on Saturday.

Real and Atletico began a pulsating derby less than three hours after Barca had scrambled to a 1-1 draw at home to Athletic Bilbao, but goalkeepers reigned supreme in the capital to ensure the grudge match finished goalless.

It means Real second, level on points with Barcelona, while Atletico is just two behind in fourth. Sevilla is third.

Gareth Bale had to be substituted at halftime with what the club confirmed was a thigh strain and is a doubt for the European champions ahead of their visit to CSKA Moscow on Tuesday.

Bale will be assessed on Sunday.

Leaving Messi on the bench is absolutely my responsibility.

It was a scenario Barcelona boss Ernesto Valverde tried to avoid before his side’s visit to Tottenham on Wednesday by resting Lionel Messi at the Camp Nou.

But the Argentine was needed in the second half after Oscar de Marcos gave Bilbao a deserved lead. Munir El Haddadi snatched Barca a point, diverting in Messi’s shot with six minutes left.

After drawing at home to Girona and being beaten by Leganes, Barcelona head to Wembley to face Spurs short of rhythm and lacking confidence.

Barcelona will be without Sergi Roberto for the Champions League Group B clash after it was confirmed he had picked up a thigh strain.

The last time Bilbao took a point at the Camp Nou in 2004, Valverde was sitting in the away team’s dugout during his first spell as Bilbao coach.

He faced questions after his bold decision to rest Messi with Tottenham in mind, along with Sergio Busquets.

“Leaving Messi on the bench is absolutely my responsibility,” Valverde said. “He has four games in 10 days and I think it’s good for Leo to rest, like Busquets, thinking of the Champions League.

“I know it was the right decision. It was a risk and on this occasion, it didn’t come off.”

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