Barcelona opened their 2021 earning all three points by hanging on for a 1-0 victory at Huesca on a cold Sunday night at the Estadio El Alcoraz.
Frenkie de Jong's goal midway through the first half proved to be the difference in a match in which Barcelona were the better side, but some superb goalkeeping from Huesca's Alvaro Fernandez and a lack of finishing from the visitors in the final third made for a nervy finish for the visitors.
Antoine Griezmann once again found himself on the bench in coach Ronald Koeman's starting XI, while after getting a rest against Eibar, Messi was back in the mix.
It was a very positive start for Barcelona and after a few warning shots from both Messi and Pedri, the Argentine superstar would craft the game's first goal by picking out De Jong with an inch-perfect pass that the Dutchman turned into net to make it 1-0.
Messi was back at it toward the end of the half and looked set to score with a freekick only to see Huesca goalkeeper Alvaro make a top-notch save to keep it a one-goal affair going into half-time.
Despite their dominance, Barcelona had still not put Huesca away as the two sides reached the hour mark and the scoreline holding at 1-0.
There was a sense that a Huesca equaliser could come and it almost did off a corner kick when a backheel from Rafa Mir required a reaction save from Barcelona No.1 Marc-Andre ter Stegen.
The Huesca chance was a wake-up call for Barcelona, who sought to put the nail in the coffin with a second score through a slick one-two combination between Messi and Pedri, yet again it was Alvaro coming up big.
Koeman's first changes didn't come until the final quarter-hour, with Oscar Mingueza and Miralem Pjanic replacing Sergino Dest and Sergio Busquets, respectively.
Ousmane Dembele was next to get a crack at scoring for Barcelona thanks to some fine work from Pedri, but the French winger was also denied by the Huesca stopper. Minutes later Griezmann finally got his chance as a late substitute for Martin Braithwaite.
Huesca made one final surge to try to steal a point, but could not find a way past Ter Stegen, as Barcelona did just enough to tuck away the three points to open the new year.
Source: Marca / Arch Bell