Barca made to sweat for draw by impressive Bilbao

Barcelona

Barcelona returns to La Liga action on Sunday with a trip to relegation contender Athletic Bilbao.

Champions Barcelona, who are unbeaten in 11 league games, missed the chance to go eight points above second-placed Real Madrid, who beat Atletico 3-1 in the capital derby on Saturday.

Barca shot-stopper Marc Andre Ter Stegen was called upon after 25 minutes to expertly tip a shot from Markel Susaeta over the top.

Barca coach Ernesto Valverde was still upbeat about his side's position in the title race, even though in the last nine days they have dropped four points.

Barca will however face Real Valladolid next weekend before their Champions League round of 16 tie against French League side Lyon the following Tuesday.

"Leo is fine, he played feeling 100 percent, we may have had difficulties, but the fact he played means he was ready", added Valverde, after his assistant Jon Aspiazu had said before the game that the Argentine was not yet fully fit.

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Williams had a wonderful chance to send Bilbao ahead in the 80th minute when the forward met a free kick from Muniain, but the ball flew just wide of the post, before the in-form Spain worldwide fired straight at Ter Stegen from another Muniain pass moments later.

Messi came close to breaking the deadlock with a chipped effort that clipped the top of the crossbar after Athletic goalkeeper Iago Herrerin was out of his area following a save to deny Nelson Semedo a clear sight of goal.

Muniain followed Mikel San Jose off the Bilbao bench just past the hour, before Barcelona made their first adjustment of the match, Carles Alena taking the place of Vidal in the middle of the park. Raul Garcia's finish was blocked and Mikel San Jose's effort whistled inches outside of the post.

Suarez stabbed wide with the outside of his right foot after turning on Messi's 74th-minute pass, but Gerard Pique did just enough at the other end to prevent Williams from making meaningful contact with substitute Iker Muniain's free-kick five minutes later.

Athletic ended with 10 men when Oscar de Marcos was shown a second yellow card in injury time for handball.

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