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2018/2019 Spanish Primera División

Barcelona held to goalless draw at Huesca as Messi, Suarez and stars rested

Barcelona were held to a 0-0 draw at Huesca but Ernesto Valverde's side, with star players including Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez rested for next week's Champions League game against Manchester United, still moved 12 points clear of Atletico Madrid.

Barca, who welcomed Ousmane Dembele back after injury, gave teenage midfielder Riqui Puig a debut and also started Jean-Clair Todibo, Malcom and Carles Alena.

Huesca's Enric Gallego had an early chance, only for his control to let him down when a shooting opportunity looked to open up.

Back came Barcelona, Dembele getting away from a defender on the edge of the area but he was crowded out before he could get a shot in.

<"photo caption="Arturo Vidal admitted that's Barcelona's listless performance on Saturday was partly due to them thinking about Manchester United.">

With quarter of an hour gone the visitors went even closer as Dembele was found by Puig, but his strike was saved by Roberto Santamaria, who denied Jeison Murillo from the resulting corner.

Kevin-Prince Boateng shot over as Barcelona began to take control, but clear chances were few and far between in the opening half-hour.

Ezequiel Avila was wayward from distance for the home team, and then Moussa Wague's cross from the left narrowly eluded the stretching Boateng.

Gallego fired wide after seizing on a loose ball as the first half ended goalless, with Barcelona a whisker away from breaking the deadlock early in the second when Malcom hit the post.

Huesca replaced Juanpi with Gonzalo Melero, whose first act was to get in a header that was straight at Barca keeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen, and then Juam Camilo Hernandez came on for David Ferreiro.

With 10 minutes remaining, Barcelona brought on Arthur for Alena, but they were unable to break through and survived a late penalty appeal when Chimy Avila went to ground under a Wague challenge.

"Of course we always want to win, but there were some exceptional circumstances for us here," Valverde told his postmatch news conference.

"We'd played Wednesday [against United] and we have the second leg on Tuesday. I thought it was time to make changes. It was a test for the players that played, and I think they did well.

"We struggled at the start but we improved. It was Todibo's first game with us, and Riqui and Moussa were making their league debuts.

"They all got better as the minutes passed. You have to understand the circumstances which surrounded the match."

Midfielder Arturo Vidal, who did start the game, said Barca's players had been distracted by Tuesday's game against United.

"We were all thinking about Manchester -- those that were here and those that stayed at home," he told reporters. "It is going to be difficult, but we got a good result over there. The Champions League is everyone's dream."