Barcelona stretched their unbeaten Premier Division run to 30 games as they were watched on by a bumper crowd inside the Camp Nou but only managed to secure a disappointing goalless draw with mid-table Getafe.
Despite seeing the vast majority of possession, Azulones’ defensive set up seemed orchestrated specifically for the test of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and co. down to the finest of details, with the La Liga leaders struggling throughout to break their opposition down.
Although boss Ernesto Valverde will be less than impressed his star-studded outfit were unable to overcome the Madrid-based club, who were on the receiving end of consecutive 6-0 defeats in Catalonia during their previous two meetings, the 54-year-old will still hold comfort in their seven-point lead over Atletico Madrid, who are the only conceivable challengers to this year’s league title.
The experimental back-four of Barcelona, which included full debutant Yerry Mina and out-of-position Lucas Digne as the centre pairing, found themselves under intense pressure from the outset via a well-drilled Getafe squeeze, and were lucky not to fall behind after less than two minutes as Amath Diedhiou lifted his attempt over the top of Marc-Andre ter Stegen.
In the custodian’s defence, he had halted his advance on the bearing down 25-year-old before the ball found the back of his net, after spotting the linesman raising his flag for offside, however the decision to call play back seemed a fortuitous one, with it clear to see on reflection the visitors’ frontman had actually timed his run to perfection.
But despite Azulones’ early press, Jose Bordalas’ side quickly reverted to a more expected deeper hold without the ball, eyeing opportunities to punish the patched-together Blaugrana defence on the counter-attack.
However, although Barcelona saw ample possession throughout the opening 45 minutes, they struggled to break down the yellow wall, with the Spanish capital outfit’s shot-stopper Vicente Guaita, who will join Crystal Palace on a free transfer at the end of this season, forced into very little action, leaving the scores goalless at the break.
The second-half began in a very similar vein to how the first concluded, with Getafe quite comfortable in packing the defence to nullify any attacking threat from Barca.
However, after a fairly low-tempo 10 minutes, both Luis Suarez and Philippe Coutinho finally found some success in breaking down the Azulones back-line, with the former flashing just wide and the latter forcing goalkeeper Guaita into a strong save after a typical bending effort from range, but the opener remained elusive.
As the tie entered the final 20 minutes, alongside the introduction of Andres Iniesta and Ousmane Dembele, Ernesto Valverde’s side showed glimpses of the attacking potency that had seen them dismantle almost all that has been put in front of them so far this season.
But, despite a late header from Suarez forcing a good stop, the tie remained deadlocked until the final whistle, which brought a chorus of boos as Barcelona trudged off the pitch following a contest that will not live long in the memory of most.