Real Madrid missed the chance to go two points clear of Barcelona at the top of La Liga as they drew 0-0 with Atletico Madrid on Saturday in an edgy, but entertaining, local derby in which the outstanding players were the two goalkeepers.
Real’s Thibaut Courtois made two exceptional saves in the first half to thwart Atletico strikers Antoine Griezmann and Diego Costa, while his opposite number, Jan Oblak, rescued the visitors with two cold-blooded stops after the interval to deny Marco Asensio and Dani Carvajal.
Gareth Bale came close to scoring for Real in the first half but was substituted at the start of the second with a suspected groin injury although his side improved without their record signing, almost snatching a winner in stoppage time when captain Sergio Ramos headed narrowly wide.
Real Madrid will host city rivals Atletico Madrid on Saturday evening at the Santiago Bernabeu to contest a heated derby clash in the capital.
Julen Lopetegui’s side will be having their teeth bared heading into the derby following a stunning 3-0 loss to Sevilla in midweek, as well as wanting to exact revenge after a 4-2 loss to Atletico in the UEFA Super Cup.
The Madrid coach has denied the impact of Cristiano Ronaldo’s departure to Juventus on his team, after scoring 12 goals in their opening six matches, though Atletico are in a similar situation of struggling to score – with star Antoine Griezmann netting only twice so far this season.
Real have now failed to beat Atletico at home in the league in their last six attempts, with their last victory coming in December 2012 when Jose Mourinho was in charge.
Real are joint-top of the standings, locked on 14 points with Barcelona, who have a slightly superior goal difference, despite their surprise 1-1 draw at home to Athletic Bilbao.
Atletico, 12 points, drop down to fourth, while Sevilla climb into third, with 13 points, after winning 3-1 at Eibar.
Atletico had beaten Real to win the UEFA Super Cup in August and their confidence had been lifted after a poor start to the campaign by back-to-back wins over Getafe and Huesca.
Real, meanwhile, went into the game hurting from a humiliating 3-0 defeat at Sevilla on Wednesday and were missing key players Isco and Marcelo through injury.
Real controlled the game with more possession although Atletico looked more dangerous going forward and had the two clearest chances of the first half. Griezmann and then Costa sneaked towards goal down the left hand side only to be thwarted by former Atletico goalkeeper Courtois.
Real’s best attempt before the interval was a volley from Bale which narrowly missed the far post, and the home side nearly scored when Oblak carelessly kicked the ball straight to Asensio, but it bounced off the forward and back into the Slovenian’s hands.
Real coach Julen Lopetegui decided to replace the injured Bale with Spain midfielder Dani Ceballos, which allowed his side to further dominate possession and create better chances.
The best opening fell to Asensio, who was given a clear sight of goal thanks to a pass from Ceballos but was denied by the right fist of Oblak.
Ramos almost repeated his memorable late goal against Atletico in the 2014 Champions League final when he met a corner in the final minute of stoppage time, but this time his header missed the target.
Real Madrid ,Barcelona