HUESCA (Reuters) – Barcelona midfielder Arturo Vidal said his side were distracted by their upcoming Champions League quarter-final decider against Manchester United after the runaway La Liga leaders could only draw 0-0 at struggling Huesca on Saturday.
Barca coach Ernesto Valverde made 10 changes to the team that had beaten United 1-0 in Wednesday’s first leg as well as handing three players their La Liga debuts and the unfamiliar team failed to break down the league’s basement club.
Despite the draw, Barca are well on course to lift an eighth Spanish league title in 11 years after beating nearest challengers Atletico Madrid 2-0 last week, and Vidal said Tuesday’s second leg against United was their priority.
“I think everyone that was playing today was thinking about Tuesday’s game, just like the guys who stayed at home,” the Chilean Vidal told reporters. “The Champions League is what everyone is dreaming about.”
Barca’s imperious domestic record is in stark contrast to their recent failures in the Champions League, where they have failed to get beyond the quarter-finals since winning the competition in 2015.
They suffered a humiliating exit last year by losing 3-0 at AS Roma and coach Valverde came in for serious criticism for not resting players in their game with Leganes three days before their collapse in Italy.
Valverde was not about to make the same mistake again, leaving talisman Lionel Messi back in Barcelona along with Sergio Busquets and Ivan Rakitic, while Luis Suarez and Gerard Pique were suspended.
“Obviously, we always want to win but this game came in special circumstances for us. We had just played on Wednesday and we have the second leg on Tuesday and I thought this was the moment to make changes,” said the Barca coach.
“If we hadn’t beaten Atletico, I would have picked a different team today, although you never know if the result would have been different. We could have done better today, but overall we’re happy.”
(Reporting by Richard Martin; Editing by Ian Chadband)