Lionel Messi's return to the beginning line-up was not sufficient to prevent Barcelona drawing a third successive match throughout all competitions, as Athletic Bilbao held out for a 0-0 stalemate at San Mames in LaLiga.
Argentina celebrity Messi was only named amongst the substitutes for Wednesday's 1-1 Copa del Rey draw in opposition to Real Madrid having struggled with a thigh injury and he looked a little off colour as Barca quit the weekend just six points clear of Los Blancos in second.
Athletic edged an interesting first half and went shut on a couple of occasions, while Barca appeared to be missing the talents of Arthur in midfield – Arturo Vidal failing to galvanize in a comparable role to the injured Brazilian, who faces a month out.
Ernesto Valverde's facet had little success growing simple possibilities in the second half of - albeit Nelson Semedo was once contentiously denied a last-gasp penalty – and may want to have even have misplaced as Athletic, who had Oscar De Marcos sent off for a 2d bookable offence in injury-time, went close twice late on.
Barca struggled to cope all through the early exchanges and had two fortunate escapes. Yuri Berchiche drilled just huge of the bottom-right nook before Markel Susaeta's curling effort compelled Marc-Andre ter Stegen into a gorgeous acrobatic save.
The visitors regularly gained a foothold and went mightily close in the 26th minute, as Iago Herrerin beat Nelson Semedo – who was once incorrectly pulled again for being offside at the quit of the go – and nudged the ball to Messi, whose first-time effort from distance hit the crossbar.
Barca had been convinced they have to have had a penalty at the begin of the 2nd 1/2 when Luis Suarez's header seemed to strike the arm of Inigo Martinez, but nothing used to be given.
Athletic nearly took all of the points in the closing 10 minutes, Inaki Williams heading vast from close range, before then seeing Ter Stegen produce a incredible reaction save to thwart him from simply 10 yards.
De Marcos was given his marching orders late on when dealing with the ball, and Barca had been denied a penalty with the closing motion of the game – VAR failing to reward them in spite of Semedo appearing to be caught by means of Yeray Alvarez.