Real keen to seize on momentum after dominating 'Clasico'

(Reuters) - ‘El Clasico’ may have finished goalless, but Real Madrid were left emboldened by their superb performance at Barcelona and will hope to build on the momentum when they host Athletic Bilbao on Sunday in their final La Liga game of 2019.

FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - La Liga Santander - FC Barcelona v Real Madrid - Camp Nou, Barcelona, Spain - December 18, 2019 Barcelona's Lionel Messi in action with Real Madrid's Luka Modric REUTERS/Albert Gea

Zinedine Zidane’s side became the first team to take points off Barca at the Camp Nou this season but were left feeling short changed by the draw after dominating the play and having two strong penalty appeals turned down.

Real are now unbeaten in 12 games in all competitions and have come into their own against the toughest opponents, with Wednesday’s performance ranking alongside their 2-2 draw with Paris St Germain as their best of the season.

“We are in great form and we are also in good shape physically. It’s a shame that the year is about to end, we would like it to not stop,” said Real captain Sergio Ramos.

Barca, meanwhile, gave an uncharacteristically shy account of themselves and the onus will be on them to produce an emphatic response at home to Alaves on Saturday after a match which has further harmed coach Ernesto Valverde’s reputation.

Newspaper Marca said the match, the first ‘Clasico’ to finish goalless in 17 years, had “caused a lot of damage” to Valverde, who in his third season in charge is struggling to get his immensely talented side to play as they know how.

Even though Barca are still top of the standings, leading Real only by goal difference, this has been a difficult season for them and they are on a downward trend after looking utterly superior to their rivals in the previous two campaigns.

Valverde’s defence of his side’s uninspiring display indicated he might not be capable of giving the team the shake up they need to win the title race.

“Barca-Real Madrid matches should be evenly matched, they are a great team, a powerful force so it’s normal that they made life tough for us,” said the coach, who saw his side thrash Real 5-1 last year and beat them 3-0 away in his debut season.

“It’s not normal that we put five goals past them or finish 17 points above them, even though that’s what has happened in recent years.”

Reporting by Richard Martin; Editing by Toby Davis