Girona slow down Barca’s rush to LaLiga title
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Girona slow down Barca’s rush to LaLiga title

BARCELONA -- Barcelona were held to a goalless draw at home to Girona in Monday's Catalan derby at Spotify Camp Nou as they moved 13 points clear of Real Madrid at the top of LaLiga.

Xavi Hernandez's side could not find a way past Girona goalkeeper Paulo Gazzaniga despite dominating possession, and it was the visitors, through on-loan New York City FC striker Valentin Castellanos, who had the best chance of the second half. Barca could have snatched the points in stoppage time, but Gazzaniga once again came to Girona's rescue, tipping a header from Gavi over the bar.

Rapid reaction

1. Gazzaniga slows down Barca's rush to the title

Xavi did not get the reaction he demanded from his Players after last week's Copa del Rey defeat to Madrid. They failed to get out of second gear against Girona as they dropped points at home for just the third time this season. However, with Madrid losing to Villarreal on Saturday, it was also a point gained in the title race. Barca are now 13 points clear of their Clasico rivals with just 10 games to play.

There were some moments, especially in the first half, when it looked like Barca would wake up. Robert Lewandowski and Ansu Fati both had chances in a lively opening 10 minutes, with Gazzaniga also doing exceptionally well to keep out a Santiago Bueno back pass after a defensive mix up. Raphinha then drew a save from Gazzaniga, before the Argentine stopper clawed a Ronald Araujo header off the line.

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Gazzaniga did not have as much to do after the break. In fact, it was Girona who wasted the best chance of the second half. Castellanos missed the target when he found himself one-on-one with Marc-Andre ter Stegen. It was only fair, though, that Gazzaniga had the last say with his late stop from Gavi.

2. Blunt Barca attack may need a reshuffle

The goalless draw is unlikely to halt Barca's first league title since 2019, but it does raise further questions about their attack. Their consistency this season has been built on clean sheets -- they have conceded just nine goals in 28 league games -- and they have had nine nervy 1-0 wins in LaLiga.

Lewandowski has scored 17 goals in his debut campaign in Spain's top flight, but his contributions have dried up since the World Cup. He looked off the pace when collecting a Gavi pass in the second half here, delaying his shot and wasting the chance. At his sharpest, he would have scored. Ansu, Raphinha and Ferran Torres could not deliver, either, while Ousmane Dembele remains injured.

Meanwhile, reports appear in the local press daily about Xavi's desire to shuffle his pack in attack. Based on this showing, you can see why.

3. Castellanos misses chance to be the hero

NYCFC striker Castellanos should have scored one of the most famous goals of his career. Beating the offside trap in the second half, he found himself with just Ter Stegen to beat, but he fired wide. Within two minutes, his night was over, the veteran forward Cristhian Stuani taking his place on the hour mark.

Castellanos has had a mixed debut season in Spain. He has scored seven goals in all competitions and remains a regular at Girona, where he is only on loan. The Catalan side have no option to make the deal permanent, though, and he might not have done enough to strengthen New York's desire to get a transfer fee of at least €15 million for him in the summer.

Luckily, his miss should not come back to haunt him at the end of the campaign. For now, Girona, on the back of a decent first season back in LaLiga, look safe. This point moves them eight clear of the bottom three.

Best and worst performers

BEST: Paulo Gazzaniga, Girona. Even though Barca were poor in the final third, the goalkeeper still had to produce a series of good saves to earn his side a point.

BEST: Gavi, Barcelona. On a night of poor performances across the board for Barca, Gavi did well in midfield, setting up a Lewandowski chance and almost scoring at the death.

BEST: Arnau Martinez, Girona. The versatile defender, who spent time in Barca's academy, had a good night at Camp Nou. It will strengthen rumours of a possible return to the club in the coming years.

WORST: Robert Lewandowski, Barcelona. Continues to look slightly off the pace. Barca will hope a summer break and a good preseason will help him back to his best.

WORST: Valentin Castellanos, Girona. Will see his miss on replay every time he closes his eyes for the next few days.

WORST: Sergi Roberto, Barcelona. Taken off at half-time for Franck Kessie thanks to a disappointing 45 minutes in midfield.

Highlights and notable moments

Will the fans get their wish? Will Lionel Messi come back home to Barcelona?

After the match: What the Players/managers said

Sergio Busquets: "Girona had more of the ball in the first half, it was hard, they have a lot of Players coming inside, especially Arnau [Martinez]. Still, we had chances. We couldn't find that final pass. "

David Lopez: "It's a difficult ground to come to, they score a lot of goals. They get a lot of bodies forward and it's difficult to not concede. We produced a really complete performance in all senses. We had one chance, with [Castellanos]."

Key stats (provided by ESPN Stats & Information research)

- Girona have yet to beat Barcelona in seven all-time meetings. Only five clubs have played the Blaugrana more times without ever getting a win: Logrones (18), Eibar (14), Recreativo de Huelva (12), Alcoyano (10), Lyon (8).

- Monday's match against Girona marked the second time this LaLiga season that Barcelona played out a scoreless draw at the Camp Nou. The last time the Catalan club had multiple 0-0 draws at home in a single LaLiga season was 2007-08.

Up next

Barcelona: Barca will head for the Spanish capital for a LaLiga clash at Getafe on Sunday (10:15 a.m. ET, stream live on ESPN+).

Girona: Girona return home for their own LaLiga contest on Sunday, when they welcome Elche to the Estadi Montilivi (8 a.m. ET, stream live on ESPN+).

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