A second-string Barcelona side dropped points in La Liga on Saturday, as they were held to a 0-0 draw by bottom side Huesca at Estadio El Alcoraz.
Ernesto Valverde rung in the changes to the starting lineup, keeping in mind the all-important Champions League quarter-final against Manchester United on Tuesday. Only Marc-Andre ter Stegen was retained from the lineup that started against United at Old Trafford earlier in the week, with the likes of Moussa Wague and Jean-Clair Todibo making their La Liga debuts.
Barcelona started the game on a positive note, with returning man Ousmane Dembele coming close to scoring fifteen minutes in, only to be denied by some fine work by Huesca keeper Roberto Santamaria. The veteran goalkeeper was on hand to deny Jeison Murillo’s headed effort soon after, ensuring that the two teams went into the half-time break on level terms.
Soon after the restart, Barcelona keeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen, who was a spectator for most of the match, reacted well to charge out to block an Enric Gallego effort. Dembele had another chance ten minutes after the break, but his shot was blocked, before Malcom’s effort ended up hitting the post.
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Neither team was able to carve out any meaningful opportunity as the game petered out to a goalless draw. With Atletico Madrid beating Celta Vigo later in the day, Barcelona’s lead at the top of the table was reduced to nine points. Here’s how we rated the performances of Valverde’s charges against the bottom feeders.
Marc-Andre ter Stegen: 6/10
Captaining Barcelona on the day, the German international was a spectator for almost the entire game. Only once was he called into action when Gallego threatened the goal, but he reacted very well to block his effort. A comfortable outing.
Jean-Clair Todibo: 7.5/10
Making his first start for Barcelona, the January signing gave a very good account of himself against Huesca. Starting on the right side of the three-man defence, Todibo was confident and composed with the ball at his feet while being solid in defence. A strong challenge late in the game was a standout moment. Promising signs for Barcelona.
Jeison Murillo: 6.5/10
Making his first league appearance for Barcelona since arriving on loan from Valencia in January, the Colombian came ever so close to opening the scoring in the first period with a fine header, but was denied by the Huesca keeper. Was hardly tested in defence with Huesca carrying very little threat in attack. Did the basics well without really standing out.
Samuel Umtiti: 6.5/10
Still not completely at his best after returning from his injury layoff, the World Cup winner will have benefited from playing the 90 minutes on Saturday. Was never really put under any pressure by the home team, allowing him to get through the game without any fuss.
Moussa Wague: 7/10
Making his first-team debut, the Senegalese full-back started off a little jittery, but grew into the game with time. Wague was a constant outlet down the right-hand side for Barcelona, supporting his side in attack. A fine cut-back for Dembele in the second half aside, his end product wasn’t up to the mark.
Arturo Vidal: 7.5/10
One of the very few experienced heads on the field for Barcelona, the Chilean did a solid job in the middle of the park. Sitting in front of the backline, Vidal kept breaking up play when the hosts threatened to create something and helped his team push forward when in possession. A commanding display.
Carles Alena: 5/10
Regarded as one of the brightest talents to have come through the Barcelona academy in recent years, the Spanish midfielder has shown glimpses of his potential this season, but failed to make a strong impression on his fourth league start of the term. Not always confident on the ball and decided to play it safe more often than not. Conceded possession more than he would have liked.
Riqui Puig: 6.5/10
Another young talent with a lot of expectations on him, the midfielder showed promise on his first La Liga start for Barcelona with some nice touches and passes, with one exquisite through ball to set Dembele up for a chance in the first half being a highlight of the game. Faded with time though, and was withdrawn for Jordi Alba.
Starting in an unnatural position as the left-sided wing-back somewhat restricted the Brazilian attacker’s influence in the final third of the pitch. However, Malcom came the closest to score a goal on the day, with his thumping effort in the second half bouncing off the post. Has looked in decent touch recently, but it just wasn’t his day against Huesca.
Kevin-Prince Boateng: 3/10
Easily the worst Barcelona player on the field on Saturday, Boateng showed why he has been used so sparingly by Valverde since his shock loan move from Sassuolo in the January window. Offered nothing in terms of movement and link-up play, looked very rusty.
Ousmane Dembele: 6.5/10
Back to full fitness, the Frenchman looked the most likely to score for Barcelona as he caused a few problems to the Huesca defence with his pace and directness. Was denied by Santamaria in a one-on-one situation in the first period and had another shot blocked after the break. His return to fitness is a major boost for Barcelona ahead of Tuesday’s match against Manchester United.
Jordi Alba: 5/10
Thrown on in place of Puig a little after the hour mark. Not tested defensively by Huesca, but wasn’t his usual marauding self in attack.
Philippe Coutinho: 5/10
Came on for Dembele in the 67th minute. Saw plenty of the ball after coming on, but wasn’t able to do much to fire Barcelona to a win.
Arthur Melo: N/A
Replaced Alena with less than ten minutes left on the clock.