The gap was already big and now it is even greater. A dour draw in the derby between Atletico and Real Madrid means that both teams are 10 points behind Barcelona in La Liga. Even at this early stage, it seems an almost insurmountable deficit.
Earlier on Saturday, Barca beat Leganes 3-0 to move provisionally 11 clear of the two capital clubs. Realistically, both needed to win in order to keep their title hopes alive. But neither could find a way a score in their first-ever meeting at the Wanda Metropolitano.
Barca have now won 11 and drawn one to rack up 34 points out of a possible 36 so far in the Primera Division. And although the Catalans had exactly the same amount of points at this stage in 2013-14, when they lost out on the title to Diego Simeone’s side, it feels different this time.
Ernesto Valverde’s men have scored more than any other team in La Liga (33), while they have also conceded fewer (just four times) than their rivals. By comparison, Madrid have let in nine and Atleti six, while Los Blancos have netted 22 and the Rojiblancos only 16.
Their respective problems in attack were in evidence on Saturday. As usual in this fixture, it was Real with most of the possession and the greater share of the play, but Atletico had the better chances overall in the 0-0 draw.
Angel Correa wasted one glorious opportunity early on with just Kiko Casilla to beat, while substitute Kevin Gameiro saw an effort cleared off the line by Raphael Varane in the second half. In between, Antoine Griezmann was desperately disappointing and his goalless run now extends to eight games.
The France forward, who left the field amid jeers from his own fans, seems certain to leave next summer and Atletico badly need a striker on this evidence. They have one, of course, but Diego Costa cannot play until January due to the transfer ban which means no new players are able to be selected in 2017.
On the whistles for his player, Simeone said: “In my family I was taught that, when someone is in the family, you support them until the death. And Griezmann is one of the family.”
Madrid, meanwhile, have their own issues in attack. Karim Benzema failed to make an impact again, while Cristiano Ronaldo scuffed one effort badly wide, saw another shot blocked and only made Jan Oblak work with a couple of long-range free-kicks which the Slovenian saved comfortably.
“Barcelona will drop points,” Zidane said after seeing his side fail to score away from home in La Liga for the first time in his tenure. “Ten points is a lot, but we have to do our job and that’s all. There will be a change. I’m sure we will cut the distance.”
Already, however, it is looking difficult. Two Clasico clashes lie ahead, so there will be a chance in those games if Madrid can beat Barca but, at the moment, the Catalans are superior in attack and also in defence to both of these two teams.
In the meantime, there is now no margin for error for either Atletico or Madrid. The title, even at this early stage, is out of their hands and it may already be too late for the two capital clubs to turn things around in La Liga.