Barca held by stubborn Malaga in Messi and Suarez’s absent

Barcelona handed a boost to La Liga leaders Real Madrid as they were held to a 0-0 home draw by nine-man Malaga on Saturday.

The champions controlled proceedings, but looked short of inspiration in the final third in absence of the suspended Luis Suarez and the ill Lionel Messi.

Juande Ramos set out his side with a back three and two ultra-defensive wing-backs, a system that kept Barca’s static forward line frustrated for long spells even though the visitors enjoyed less than 20 per cent of the ball.

Carlos Kameni was in fine form when Barca did breach the visiting rearguard, making superb saves to deny Rafinha, Gerard Pique and Neymar, although Malaga were fortunate not to concede a penalty following a clash between Arda Turan and Federico Ricca.

Diego Llorente was controversially sent off midway through the second half for a heavy challenge on Neymar, but despite their numerical advantage, some sublime tricks from the Brazilian and a last-minute red card for Juankar, the three points proved elusive for Luis Enrique’s side.

The result means Barca close to within a point of league leaders Madrid, who take on Atletico Madrid at the Vicente Calderon in what could prove to be a pivotal derby clash later on Saturday.

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