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MADRID DRAW AGAIN AS BARCELONA LEADS LA LIGA TABLE AT XMAS

Real Madrid were held to a goalless draw by Athletic Bilbao in the final La Liga fixture of 2019 on Sunday at the Santiago Bernabeu.  

Los Blancos created plenty of chances in a dominant first-half performance but could not find a way past goalkeeper Unai Simon.

Toni Kroos smashed a shot against the underside of the crossbar after a storming run, while Karim Benzema had an effort backheeled off the line by defender Unai Nunez.

The hosts also survived a let-off just behind half-time. Kenan Kodro found the top corner with a shot after a quick break but saw his effort ruled out for offside.

Real Madrid piled on the pressure after the break but endured more frustration as substitutes Nacho Fernandez and Luka Jovic were both denied by the woodwork.

Athletic managed to cling on for a hard-fought point that sees Real Madrid stay in second place but drop two points behind fierce rivals Barcelona at the top of the table.

Zinedine Zidane was without the suspended Casemiro for Sunday’s clash and made four changes to the team that drew with Barcelona in El Clasico, bringing in Eder Militao, Luka Modric, Vinicius Jr. and Rodrygo.

Athletic Bilbao made six changes to their team that beat Intercity in the Copa del Rey on Tuesday with key players such as Simon, Yuri Berchiche, Dani Garcia, Inaki Williams and Kodro all back in the starting XI.

Vinicius Jr. brought supporters to their feet early on. The Brazilian won possession on the edge of the box and swapped passes with Benzema but saw his shot blocked by Simon

Real Madrid kept pressing and went even closer when Kroos stormed through Athletic’s three centre-backs and rifled a shot that beat Simon but smashed against the underside of the crossbar and away to safety.

At the other end of the pitch, Real Madrid needed goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois to be alert to deny Inaki Williams on the break

Meanwhile, Barcleona beat Alaves 4-1 a day before, thanks to goals from Antonio Griezman, Arturo Vidal, Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi.

The Spanish champions now lead the La Liga table with 2 points more than Los Blancos as the Spanish League goes to break till new year.

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