|Messi, right, could find no way through the Espanyol defence [AFP]
Espanyol held their city rivals Barcelona to a goalless draw to keep Real Madrid in the Spanish Primera Division title race.
The Madridistas will go one point behind their Catalan rivals if they beat Valencia on Sunday.
Daniel Alves was sent off for Barca as they found no way through their poorer neighbours' defence on Saturday night.
The result moved Espanyol eight clear of the drop zone.
Earlier, Frederic Kanoute and Luis Fabiano were on target to help Sevilla beat Sporting Gijon 3-0 at home, moving them up to fourth.
Mali striker Kanoute scored at a free kick in the eighth minute and Sporting's chances of getting back into the game were hindered when forward Mate Bilic picked up his second yellow card to head for an early bath in the 32nd.
Brazil striker Luis Fabiano guided a majestic header past Juan Pablo in the 53rd, and Sporting picked up a second red card when defender Jose Angel walked in the 84th.
Juan Cala wrapped up the points with a close-range header to keep up Sevilla's push for a return to Champions League action next season. They are fourth with 54 points from 33 games.
Villarreal were playing Atletico Madrid in the late match.