Messi rested as Barcelona held by Huesca
LaLiga leaders Barcelona were held to a goalless draw at bottom club Huesca, where manager Ernesto Valverde made sweeping changes.
Lionel Messi was rested for the trip to the Estadio El Alcoraz, despite being 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.
With the second leg against the English side looming and another LaLiga title in sight, Valverde opted for some fresh faces while also covering for suspended duo Gerard Pique and Luis Suarez.
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Defender Jean-Clair Todibo and 20-year-old Senegal international Moussa Wague were handed first-team debuts, with midfielder Riqui Puig and Jeison Murillo also coming 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 the post.
Huesca, who lost 8-2 when the teams met at the Nou Camp earlier in the season, battled bravely on to frustrate their illustrious visitors, who have now drawn two of the past three LaLiga games.
The home side created the first decent opening in the 12th minute from a corner, which saw Ezequiel Avila glance a header over goalkeeper Marc-Andre Ter Stegen and wide.
Barca, though, were soon on the offensive as Puig’s through-ball released Dembele, who was denied by a smart save from Roberto Santamaria, the goalkeeper deflecting the ball around the post off his boot.
Wague then got away down the right and crossed for Kevin-Prince Boateng, who fired his shot over the crossbar.
The tempo of the match then dropped as Huesca regrouped to try to stifle Barca’s attacking threat.
With half-time approaching, Wague sent over another low cross through the six-yard box, which Boateng failed to make a proper connection with as the ball came off his shin and bobbled wide.
Huesca threatened again early in the second half when Avila headed a deep cross back through the penalty area, where Enric Gallego got a shot away but Ter Stegen made a smart reaction block.
Barca slowly regained momentum as, in the 56th minute, Wague got space down the right and cut the ball back to Dembele, but his effort was blocked.
Malcom then saw his shot come back off the post as the visitors looked to break the deadlock.
In the 67th minute, Valverde made a double change as Puig was replaced by Jordi Alba and Philippe Coutinho came on for Dembele.
Murillo had to go off for some treatment on a hip problem, but the Colombia defender was soon able to continue.
French teenager Todibo had to make a timely tackle when Huesca forward Avila looked set to fire off a shot goalwards as the points were shared.