Rotated Barcelona surrender two points to Atletico Madrid after Huesca draw

Source:AFP Published: 2019/4/14 22:18:41

Barcelona's 11-point advantage over Atletico Madrid became nine on Saturday as Lionel Messi was left out of their goalless draw with Huesca and Gerard Pique watched on television with a bowl of prawns.

With Barca's focus clearly on Manchester United, Messi and Pique were among 10 players rested for the stalemate at El Alcoraz as coach Ernesto Valverde prioritized Tuesday's second leg and progress to the Champions League semifinals. The price was two points dropped and Atletico capitalized, beating Celta Vigo 2-0 thanks to a thundering Antoine Griezmann free kick and a cool finish from Alvaro Morata.

"Obviously we always want to win but it's true this game came in slightly different circumstances," Valverde said.

"It is an unusual week because we come from playing an intense match on Wednesday, when the trip was long, and we have the return on Tuesday.

"Considering the schedule and our advantage in the league, I thought it was time to make changes."

Messi was left out of the squad completely while the suspended Pique ­posted a picture on social media of the match on television, in front of him a large bowl of seafood.

Barcelona's huge advantage at the top of La Liga has afforded them the luxury of prioritizing success in Europe, the only issue perhaps for Valverde the ­matter of maintaining momentum.

Overall, they were better than Huesca but never really got out of second gear.

Luis Suarez was also banned, with Sergio Busquets, Ivan Rakitic and ­Clement Lenglet given the chance to recuperate too ahead of the return against United at Camp Nou, where Barca will start with 1-0 lead from the first leg.

Ousmane Dembele's chance of a start there would appear enhanced after he played 67 minutes following his recovery from a hamstring injury.

Malcom came closest to a winner, his shot hitting the post, but Huesca were good value for the draw and could even have snatched victory themselves in the second half.

Still bottom of the table in their first-ever season in Spain's top flight, Huesca now sit five adrift of safety, albeit having played a game more than those immediately above them. Their survival bid remains unlikely but alive.

Posted in: SOCCER

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