Barca boss Valverde happy with changes despite draw at lowly Huesca

REUTERS  LEE SMITH

"I think we all take examples of things happening in the past and use them to spur us on", he said.

Seventeen-year-old defender Paolo Gozzi and midfielder Grigoris Kastanos, 21, were given their first starts.

Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde has left forward Lionel Messi off his squad for this weekend's Spanish league match, giving him more rest before the visit of Manchester United.

"Last season we did the double but we all felt bad about how it went in the Champions League", Messi said in August.

Valverde fielded an nearly unrecognizable starting 11 on Saturday in a 0-0 draw at Huesca, the Spanish league's bottom team.

They host Ajax in the second leg of the quarter finals on Tuesday night and even if Barzagli feature in the game, he will still no doubt play a vital part in the dressing room in using his vast experience to help motivate his teammates.

Perhaps due to this being a more seasoned version of Barcelona, the visitors quickly adopted a conservative, self-serving approach and essentially shut the game down, happy to return to Camp Nou with a 1-0 advantage.

"But he was a little bit stunned at the time, although he's okay now for this game and ready to go", Valverde told a press conference on Monday.

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"Huesca is a risky game", warned Valverde, whose side have an 11-point lead over Atletico at the top of the table with just seven games to play.

"It was a hard situation because lots of new people came in, but I knew it's what we had to do today". We respect them as a team, and the history they have behind them.

Barca goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen is confident his team can avoid a repeat.

Valverde referenced United's famous comeback from 1-0 down in the Champions League final 20 years ago against Bayern Munich when asked if he planned to start with recently fit-again Ousmane Dembele or use him from the bench. They have beaten Juventus and Paris Saint Germain in the last minutes so we will have to be at our best. "If we get to injury-time we are a fit team".

"You usually win the Scudetto with 84 to 86 points, but last term Napoli had 91 - a club record - and still finished second, so our performance that season was extraordinary".

"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".

The coach also spoke of United's spirit after they came back to beat PSG in the previous round.

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