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Alves sent off as Espanyol stymie Barcelona in Catalan derby

Barcelona defender Daniel Alves will miss next weekend's match against Xerez following his sending-off at Espanyol.
Barcelona defender Daniel Alves will miss next weekend's match against Xerez following his sending-off at Espanyol.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Spanish leaders Barcelona held to frustrating 0-0 draw at city rivals Espanyol
  • Daniel Alves sent off as Barca move four points clear of second-placed Real Madrid
  • Real can reduce the gap with victory away to third-placed Valencia on Sunday
  • Fourth-placed Sevilla win 3-0 at Sporting Gijon, who have two players sent off
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(CNN) -- Spanish leaders Barcelona gave Real Madrid hope of snatching the Spanish title after being held 0-0 at city rivals Espanyol on Saturday in a tense match that saw Daniel Alves sent off with half an hour to play.

Real can now cut the champions' league lead to just one point by winning at home to third-placed Valencia on Sunday night, after which there will be five rounds to play.

The stalemate was the first time Barcelona had failed to score in La Liga since October, and came ahead of Tuesday's Champions League semifinal first leg away to Inter Milan.

Should that match in Italy go ahead if European air travel resumes following the volcanic ash fallout from Iceland, Inter boss Jose Mourinho will have eagerly noted Espanyol's success in nullifying Barcelona's star-studded line-up.

Mid-table Espanyol lost 1-0 at the Nou Camp in December, but could have led at halftime in the first match between the two teams at the new Cornella-El Prat stadium.

Barcelona had hit the crossbar when winger Pedro's cross deceived goalkeeper Carlos Kameni, but the home side created the better chances and should have scored just before halftime but Victor Valdes pushed striker Osvaldo's shot onto the near post.

Alves was dismissed for a second booking in the 62nd minute after body checking Jose Callejon, but Espanyol could not take advantage of having an extra man.

Earlier on Saturday, fourth-placed Sevilla bounced back from the midweek defeat at struggling Valladolid to crush Sporting Gijon 3-0, who had two players sent off.

Mali striker Fredi Kanoute opened the scoring in the eight minute after his initial header was blocked, and 13th-placed Gijon lost Mate Bilic to a second yellow card on 32.

Kanoute's strike partner Luis Fabiano doubled the lead eight minutes after halftime with a header from Adriano's cross as the Brazilian made up for having an earlier effort ruled out for offside.

Jose Angel Valdes was sent off for a second booking with 10 minutes left after Alvaro Negredo went down clutching his face, and the Sevilla forward set up defender Cala from the resulting free-kick.

Villarreal claimed sixth place from Athletic Bilbao after beating Atletico Madrid 2-1 in the late match.

Argentine defender Diego Godin diverted in a 21st-minute corner and Italian forward Giuseppe Rossi made Atletico pay for calamitous defending just before halftime.

Argentina forward Sergio Aguero ended his recent goal drought with his 19th of the season with a volley from Jose Antonio Reyes' pass in the 64th minute, but 10th-placed Atletico went down to a 15th league loss this season ahead of Thursday's Europa League semifinal first leg against English club Liverpool.

Bilbao can move back into the top six with victory at Zaragoza on Sunday, while fifth-placed Mallorca face mid-table Osasuna.