Barcelona and Real Madrid's draw on Wednesday in El Clasico was the first scoreless meeting between the two rivals since 2002, but the lack of goals wasn't the only surprise. Just before kickoff, Barcelona announced its starting XI that included midfield star Sergio Busquets. Then, a short time later, Barca released an updated one that showed Busquets out of the starting lineup. Ivan Rakitic started in his place. It was a head-scratching move due to Busquets' importance in the middle of the pitch as the player who dictates the pace of the game and passes as well as any other midfielder in the world from his deep-lying position.
After the match, Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde explained his decision, revealing that Busquets was sick.
"It is true that Busquets was feeling bad, had a fever before the game, " Valverde said after the match, according to journalist Dermot Corrigan. "We thought we could have used him in the second half, but not in the end. The coach makes the decision based on what you see."
Valverde has been on the hot seat since blowing a 3-0 lead over Liverpool in the Champions League semifinals last year. His team followed that up with a defeat to Valencia in the Copa del Rey final.
Some fans were surprised by his return to the bench this season, thinking he would be let go after the 2018-19 campaign. But he was given another chance and will ultimately be judged on how he does in the Champions League. Barcelona faces Napoli in the UCL's.
The confusion of Busquets situation gave some fans another reason to question Valverde, but there was more clarity after the match. In the end, Real Madrid couldn't score, but Barca could have used a full-strength Busquets to kick-start an attack that produced just two shots on goal.
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