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Barcelona and Girona fail to take advantage of Real Madrid’s stumble in Spanish league

FC Barcelona’s Fermin Lopez in action with Athletic Bilbao’s Unai Gomez
| Photo Credit: Reuters

Barcelona and Girona failed to take advantage of Real Madrid’s stumble in the Spanish league.

Defending champion Barcelona was held 0-0 at Athletic Bilbao on Sunday, while Girona lost 1-0 at Mallorca.

The Catalan clubs missed their chance to make up ground on league leader Madrid, which drew 2-2 at Valencia on Saturday. The weekend’s results meant that Madrid increased its lead over second-place Girona to seven points and stayed eight points ahead of third-place Barcelona.

Fourth-place Atletico Madrid did cut into Madrid’s lead with a 2-1 win over Real Betis, though Diego Simeone’s team remained in fourth place and 11 points behind its city rival after 27 matches.

Barcelona lost two of its top players because of injuries, with Pedri and Frenkie De Jong having to be replaced before halftime in Bilbao.

Athletic remained in fifth place, five points behind the last Champions League place. Before the match, the club paid tribute to a fan who died after suffering a stroke during the Copa del Rey match against Atletico on Thursday.

It was an even match at San Mamés Stadium, with each team having only two attempts on target. João Cancelo and Robert Lewandowski had some of the most significant chances for Barcelona.

“We didn’t play a good match,” Barcelona coach Xavi Hernández said. “It’s a missed opportunity. We could have done better.”

The coach said the early injuries affected his team. De Jong left the match in the 26th minute after twisting his ankle, while Pedri appeared to hurt a leg muscle in the 45th.

“These are injuries to two very important players, it’s unfortunate,” Xavi said. “We are sad because it seems that they will be out for several matches.”


Atletico rebounded from being eliminated by Athletic in the semifinals of the Copa del Rey to strengthen its grip on fourth place.

It was only the second win in eight matches for Diego Simeone’s team, which also lost to Inter Milan in the first leg of the round of 16 of the Champions League, and to Sevilla in the Spanish league.

The victory at the Metropolitano Stadium left Atletico three points behind Barcelona and four points behind Girona.

“We are on the right track,” Simeone said. “We’ve been doing things well and hopefully this win will give us a boost.”

Sixth-place Betis has only one win in its last five matches in all competitions — against Athletic in the previous league round.

Atletico hadn’t won in three straight matches across all tournaments. It opened the scoring with an own-goal by Betis goalkeeper Rui Silva in the eighth minute after the defense failed to clear.

Striker Álvaro Morata added to the lead with a close-range header in the 44th to end his seven-game scoreless streak. Morata had missed a penalty kick with Atletico winning 1-0 in the first half.

Betis got on the board with a long-range strike by midfielder William Carvalho in the 62nd.

Atletico was still without forward Antoine Griezmann because of an ankle injury.


Girona lost for the third time in four matches to miss its chance to move closer to Madrid.

It had beaten Rayo Vallecano last week to end a three-match winless streak, but it couldn’t get past Mallorca, which had advanced Tuesday to the Copa del Rey final by eliminating Real Sociedad in a penalty shootout.

José Copete scored the winner in the 33rd minute as Mallorca moved to 15th place, eight points clear of the relegation zone.


Alexander Sorloth scored a hat trick as Villarreal routed second-to-last Granada 5-1 to move to 12th place.

Theodor Corbeanu scored in stoppage time for Granada, which hasn’t won in seven consecutive matches.

Villarreal has won two in a row after three straight losses.

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