The defending La Liga champions Barcelona were held to a 0-0 tie at Sevilla in an empty stadium on Friday as they dropped in the domestic league for the first time since the season re-started after the stoppage due to the coronavirus or COVID-19 pandemic.

The Catalans are currently at the top of the table on 65 points after playing 30 games but the second-placed Real Madrid, with 62, can go over their rivals if they beat Real Sociedad away on Sunday because of their superior head-to-head record. Sevilla are third on the table.

Barca's Lionel Messi went into the match on 699 career goals but failed to get his 700th for club and country, coming closest with a first-half free-kick which was headed off the line. Sergio Reguilon had a glorious chance to snatch a winner in added time when the ball fell into his path from close range but he hit it into the ground and Barca keeper Marc-Andre Ter Stegen made a comfortable save for the reigning champions.

Barca Held to a 0-0 Draw by Sevilla

FC Barcelona
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Barca striker Luis Suarez made his first start since returning from knee surgery in an attacking trio alongside Messi and Martin Braithwaite as Antoine Griezmann dropped to the bench and the Catalans freely moved the ball around in the first half. Messi had two free-kick attempts while ex-Sevilla midfielder Ivan Rakitic narrowly missed the target from inside the area.

There was tension just before halftime when Messi pushed Sevilla's Diego Carlos to the ground after he had fouled Suarez and while the Argentine escaped without a booking for the incident, after which Sergio Busquets was shown a yellow card. Sevilla re-grouped after the break and had the better chances, with Lucas Ocampos smashing a shot against Ter Stegen, who also thwarted former Barca forward Munir El Haddadi.

Suarez had the visitors' best chance after the interval but failed to keep his stinging shot under the bar while Ter Stegen came up to contest a corner in added time, underlining Barca's desperation to win the game and boost their title chances.

(With agency inputs)