Marc-Andre ter Stegen produced a series of stunning saves to earn Barcelona a hard fought 0-0 draw against a spirited Athletic Bilbao, moving Ernesto Valverde's men six points clear at the top of La Liga.
In front of a packed crowd at the
Ter Stegen then produced a moment of magic to keep the sides level on 16 minutes, tipping
With Bilbao camped inside their own half, they countered quickly and were inches from taking the lead against the run of play on 65 minutes, but
Iker Muniain picked out Williams near the penalty spot, and the striker had the whole goal to aim for, but the excellent Ter Stegen clawed out his effort with an instinctive right arm from point-blank range.
Neither side were able to break to deadlock as the clock ran down, but there was still time for Oscar de Marcos to receive a second yellow card and head for an early shower, as Ter Stegen earned his side what could prove to be a valuable point in their bid for the La Liga title.
Man of the Match? 樂— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) February 10, 2019
Key Talking Point
The big question prior to kick off was whether or not Messi would be fit to start the match after only being fit enough for the bench in Barcelona's Copa del Rey draw against Real Madrid.
Guess who's back in the starting XI? pic.twitter.com/PJZApVjRLj— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) 10 February 2019
Barcelona were uncharacteristically poor in the first 45 minutes, with Messi's inclusion failing to spark life into Valverde's side as they were second best in every department. They improved drastically after the break, but too many players were average on the day, hardly staking a claim for a start when the league leaders return to Champions League action in just over a week.
The draw could well be seen as a point earned, as they came up against a side in fine form under new boss
Starting XI: Ter Stegen (9); Roberto (6), Pique (7), Lenglet (7), Semedo (7); Rakitic (7), Vidal (5), Busquets (7); Messi (7), Coutinho (6), Suarez (6)
Subtitutes: Alena (6), Dembele (6), Vermaelen (N/A)
Star Man - Marc-Andre ter Stegen
The German was in inspired form on Sunday night, producing a series of excellent stops to deny a Bilbao side who were left scratching their heads as to how they didn't score. His flying save in the first half to halt Susaeta was outstanding, but was bettered in the second half as he showcased cat-like reflexes to deny Williams from close range.
Often overlooked as one of the best keepers in the world, the 26-year-old demonstrated his importance to Valverde's side on numerous occasions. Barcelona were below par on the night, yet had their goalkeeper to thank for keeping them from falling to a shock defeat.
Two more stunning saves for Ter Stegen's showreel tonight.— Samuel Marsden (@samuelmarsden) February 10, 2019
Worst Player - Arturo Vidal
Earning his place in the starting lineup in place of the injured Arthur, the Chilean failed in his audition for a regular starting berth with numerous misplaced passes lacking a cutting edge. Since arriving from Bayern Munich last summer, the 31-year-old has struggled to make an impact in Catalonia, often being confined to a role on the bench. He was substituted at the 63rd minute for
The La Liga leaders are back in domestic action next Saturday as they host Valladolid, then three days later travel to France to take on Lyon in the first leg of their Champions League round of 16 clash.
Bilbao meanwhile, face a crucial clash at the wrong end of the league table, travelling to bottom club Huesca before hosting mid-table Eibar.