Barca boss Valverde happy with changes despite draw at lowly Huesca
Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde defended making sweeping changes after the LaLiga leaders were held to a goalless draw at bottom club Huesca.
Lionel Messi was one of several star names missing from the trip to the Estadio El Alcoraz.
The Argentina playmaker had been given the all-clear after scans following a collision with Manchester United’s Chris Smalling during the Champions League match at Old Trafford on Wednesday.
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) April 13, 2019
However, with the quarter-final second leg against United to come next week and his side in control at the top of the table, Valverde felt it was the right opportunity to freshen up the side.
With suspended duo Gerard Pique and Luis Suarez also not available, defender Jean-Clair Todibo and 20-year-old Senegal international Moussa Wague were handed first-team debuts.
Midfielder Riqui Puig and Jeison Murillo also came in for starts.
Barca had chances to break the deadlock, the best of which fell to Ousmane Dembele during the first half, while Malcom later saw his shot come back off a post.
Huesca, beaten 8-2 when the teams met at the Nou Camp earlier in the season, battled bravely on to frustrate the leaders, who have now drawn two of their past three LaLiga games.
“There were many changes and many debuts. We’re happy in this sense,” Valverde said at a press conference.
“We could’ve tried something more in attack, but we’re happy in general.
“It was a difficult situation because lots of new people came in, but I knew it’s what we had to do today. The three players grew into the game
“We’ve changed the shape because we had a problem with the full-backs and I didn’t want to play Jordi Alba and Nelson Semedo today.”
The Barca coach added: “If we hadn’t won against Atletico Madrid (last week) then today would have been different in terms of the team selection, although I don’t know if the result would have been different.”
Despite not being able to break down Huesca, Valverde remained positive.
“I watched a very even game,” the Barcelona coach added at a press conference reported in the Spanish media.
“We knew that they were going to play at speed, with long balls and second balls.”
Huesca coach Francisco felt his side held their own in the face of quality opposition, despite the changes.
“We knew we could not play Barca face to face. You had to make a long game, master the phases of the game and have options at the end,” Francisco said afterwards on the club website.
“The plan has not come out, but we have reached the 80th minute alive.
“We have faced a very different team than the one we had been playing, but they are very good.
Francisco must now pick his side up for next week’s trip to relegation rivals Rayo Vallecano
“We will prepare another final as if it were the last one,” he said.
“There is pride and confidence, but if we do not win we are stuffed.”