Real Madrid's run of wins came to an end when they were held to a 1-1 draw at the Santiago Bernabeu by city rivals Atletico Madrid, allowing Barcelona to extend their lead at the top to six points. After two successive defeats, Barcelona got back on track with a 2-0 home win over Athletic Bilbao to stretch their advantage over Real by two points. Real had won ten straight league games to cut Barcelona's advantage from 12 points to four in just three games and were hoping to put wind in their sails for Tuesday's UEFA Champions League showdown with Liverpool at Anfield, a match in which they trail 1-0 from the first leg.
Uruguayan striker Diego Forlan put Atletico ahead on 38 minutes with his 18th goal of the season, but Klaas-Jan Huntelaar equalised after 57 minutes. It meant Atletico's derby hoodoo continues and they have not beaten Real since a 3-1 win back in 1999. Atletico stay fifth, two points behind fourth-placed Villarreal.
The point was good news for Barcelona who capitalised with a victory over Athletic Bilbao in a match-up between this season's two Kings Cup finalists. Sergi Busquets, 20, scored his first goal for the club using his 6ft 2in frame to head home before Lionel Messi converted a penalty to take his season's tally to 18 goals. It was a crucial win for Barcelona and their next task is at home to Lyon in the UEFA Champions League on Wednesday with the tie 1-1 after the first leg.
Personnel problems saw Real coach Juande Ramos use French midfielder Lass Diarra as an emergency right back for Sergio Ramos who was required at centre-half. Against Sergio Aguero and Forlan - who tore Barcelona to pieces in last weekend's 4-3 win - it was a big task. The two combined to give Atletico the lead with Aguero setting up Forlan to smash the ball past Iker Casillas. Atletico had not won a derby against their arch rivals for a decade and the wait goes on after Huntelaar equalised on 57 minutes.
For Barcelona it was a relief to see pursuers Real drop points and their peformance against Bilbao would have pleased manager Pep Guardiola. Barcelona were awarded a number of free-kicks and made one count in the 17th minute when Xavi's fantastic cross was headed in by the tall Busquets.
Just after the hour mark the hosts were then awarded a penalty when the speedy Andres Iniesta was clipped in the box. The ice-cool Messi converted the spot-kick, sending the goalkeeper the wrong way. Iniesta hit the post early in the second half and Barcelona could have won by eight or nine with Samuel Eto'o and Thierry Henry missing a glut of chances.