BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Missing Lionel Messi and most of its regular starters, Barcelona could only draw 0-0 at Huesca in the Spanish league on Saturday, three days before the visit of Manchester United in the Champions League.
Barcelona increased its commanding lead to 12 points ahead of second-placed Atletico Madrid, which played Celta Vigo later.
With the league title seemingly locked up with only six rounds left, Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde put his focus on United’s visit on Tuesday. Barcelona won 1-0 at Old Trafford in the first leg of their European quarterfinal.
The only first-choice players to start against Huesca were goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen, midfielder Arturo Vidal, and forward Ousmane Dembele, who saw his first action since being sidelined for a month with a left-leg muscle injury.
Valverde left Messi and Sergio Busquets off the squad to rest, while Ivan Rakitic had a fever and Sergi Roberto stayed home to nurse a leg injury. Luis Suarez and Gerard Pique served one-game suspensions for accumulating five bookings.
In their place, Valverde gave playing time to several young players.
Senegal right back Moussa Wague, 20, and French centerback Jean-Clair Todibo, 19, made their debuts, while midfielder Rique Puig, 19, made his first league appearance.
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Barcelona thrashed Huesca 8-2 at Camp Nou in September, when Huesca was playing its third match ever in the top flight.
Despite needing to take all three points, Huesca barely threatened Ter Stegen’s goal.
Barcelona’s Malcom went closest to a goal when he struck the upright in the 57th.
Huesca was left in last place at five points from safety.
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