Valverde defends changes after Barcelona’s 0-0 draw at Huesca

HUESCA, SPAIN - APRIL 13: Head coach Ernesto Valverde of FC Barcelona looks on prior to the start the La Liga match between SD Huesca and FC Barcelona at Estadio El Alcoraz on April 13, 2019 in Huesca, Spain. (Photo by Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images)

Ernesto Valverde defended the several changes he made to the line-up in Barcelona’s surprise 0-0 draw at bottom-placed side SD Huesca.

With one eye on Tuesday’s return leg against Manchester United in their Champions League quarter-final tie, Barcelona manager Valverde fielded his reserves for Saturday afternoon’s La Liga match at Huesca.

Lionel Messi and Sergio Busquets were given a break, while Ivan Rakitic was out with an illness and Sergi Roberto to injury. On the other hand, both Luis Suarez and Gerard Pique served suspensions.

Therefore, Valverde handed four players in Jean-Clair Todibo, Jeison Murillo, Moussa Wague and Riqui Puig their La Liga debuts for Barcelona.

After missing the United game at Old Trafford mid-week due to a hamstring problem, Ousmane Dembele was restored to the line-up with Sassuolo loanee Kevin-Prince Boateng partnering him up front.

Samuel Umtiti, Arturo Vidal and Malcom also made rare starts for a Barcelona squad that boasted an average age of just 23 years old.

Despite claiming 74% of the ball possession, the young Blaugrana side only got two of their 10 shots on target.

Malcom came closest to breaking the deadlock by hitting the post in an otherwise low-key performance for the visitors.

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“There were many changes and many debuts,” said Valverde, according to Marca.

“We’re happy in this sense. 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. 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.”

Huesca, who were thrashed 8-2 by Barcelona in their last La Liga match in September, collected their first-ever point against the Catalan club.

“I watched a very even game,” Valverde said.

“We knew that they were going to play at speed, with long balls and second balls.

“If we hadn’t won against Atletico Madrid then today would have been different in terms of the team selection, although I don’t know if the result would have been different.”

HUESCA, SPAIN – APRIL 13: FC Barcelona line up for a team photo prior to the the La Liga match between SD Huesca and FC Barcelona at Estadio El Alcoraz on April 13, 2019 in Huesca, Spain. (Photo by Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images)gives instructions to his player