Lionel Messi scored one penalty and missed another as Barcelona beat Real Valladolid to move seven points clear at the top of La Liga. Messi scored his 30th goal of 2018-19 when he converted his first spot-kick after Michel had fouled Gerard Pique.
Barcelona were awarded a second penalty when substitute Philippe Coutinho was brought down by Kiko Olivas, but this time Jordi Masip saved Messi’s strike.
Masip also made a number of saves to repeatedly deny Luis Suarez and Messi.
Real Madrid are third, two points behind Atletico, and play their game in hand on Sunday when they entertain Girona at 11:00 GMT.
With Barcelona facing Lyon in the opening leg of their Champions League last-16 tie on Tuesday, manager Ernesto Valverde opted to have Suarez and Ivan Rakitic among the substitutes, with former Tottenham and Portsmouth man Kevin-Prince Boateng starting.
Boateng had a low shot saved by Masip, who was with Barcelona from 2008 to 2017, but the visitors themselves wasted a glorious chance when they failed to convert a four-on-two counter-attack with Nacho overhitting the cross.
Within a minute of that Valladolid chance, Barcelona were ahead. Pique, playing his 300th La Liga match for the club, burst into the penalty area, Michel had his arms on his shoulders and Messi stepped up to convert the resulting penalty.
Sergi Guardiola, a player sacked by Barcelona in 2015 within a day of joining them after historical tweets critical of the team and the region were discovered, was part of the Valladolid side and had a chance early in the second half, but shot narrowly wide from 25 yards out.
But the hosts continued to produce good chances as Masip made a brilliant save to keep out Messi’s volley and then denied substitute Suarez and Ousmane Dembele.
A quick passing move involving Suarez and Coutinho saw the latter brought down for Barcelona’s second penalty, but Masip pushed away Messi’s effort, which had been placed in the same position as the first.
Masip kept his side in it with another excellent save to deny Suarez, with Messi also shooting narrowly off target. However, despite a good performance from the visitors, they could not force an equaliser and they are now 15th, three points above the relegation zone.