What are Barcelona going to do about Philippe Coutinho?

As Barcelona celebrated their third goal against Rayo Vallecano, the TV cameras looked to the Barcelona bench. There, a little crouched over in thought, was Philippe Coutinho. He’d barely even sat down having been taken off in the 81st minute by the time Barca scored a wonderful goal in the 82nd minute. It was the sort of goal they would have struggled to score with the Brazilian on the pitch.

Coutinho has become a misfit at Camp Nou. He was Barcelona’s record signing last year, arriving as the player to replace both Neymar and Andres Iniesta simultaneously. No pressure. Now, though, the Brazilian playmaker can’t even force his way into Ernesto Valverde’s strongest team.

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Saturday, when Coutinho was handed a rare start against Rayo, was a chance for him to prove his worth. Instead, the Brazilian floated through the game without making much of an impression. It was only when he was taken off that Barcelona started to play the sort of football their fans have come to expect from them.

Far from being the solution to a problem, as he was billed when he first arrived just over a year ago, Coutinho has become a problem himself. The role he is being asked to perform is very different to the one he conducted so well over the course of his time at Liverpool and there are few signs that he will adapt and tailor his game effectively to earn a place at Barcelona.

Coutinho frequently finds the space he would often occupy filled by Lionel Messi. Rather than imposing his own game on Barcelona, as he did at Liverpool, Coutinho is being asked to fit around others. Ousmane Dembele is much more effective on the left side of the attacking three and there appears to be no place for Coutinho in the midfield unit either.

So what can Barcelona do to solve their Coutinho problem? There have been rumours that the Brazilian could be sold at the end of the season, with Manchester United among those reported to be interested in signing the 26-year-old. That would require Barca to take a big financial hit, though, on a player they splurged £146 million on not so long ago.

Beyond that, Coutinho might have to wait until Messi fades and becomes the midfield pass-master he is predicted to become before he can claim a place in Barcelona’s attack. Waiting around for Messi, arguably the game’s greatest ever player, to fade doesn’t sound like the most solid of plans.

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La Liga’s top picks for fantasy football this weekend

 

La Liga

All La Liga teams are in action this weekend so let’s take a look at the top fantasy La Liga picks for the upcoming games.

Starting on Friday evening, there are 20 La Liga fixtures to look forward to.

Goalkeeper – David Soria (Getafe) – 6.0 million

I’ve gone with Getafe’s David Soria for the goalkeeper spot. Getafe are at home to bottom team, Huesca, so a clean sheet is very much a possibility for Jose Bordalas’ side. Soria has 46 points this season.

Philippe Coutinho the odd man out at Barcelona

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It has now been over a year since Philippe Coutinho became the world’s second most expensive player in the history of football. The Brazilian moved to Barcelona from Liverpool in a deal which cost a potential total of €160m, has already won three medals at the club and enjoyed many decisive moments yet there is speculation over his future.

Across the playmaker’s first 22 appearances in Spanish football he found the net ten times, yet only six more goals have followed in the following 28 outings for the Catalan giants. Coutinho has faced dilemmas both on and off the pitch, trying to force his way into a star-studded attack while settling into a new culture and language. Continue reading

Barcelona’s incentive to end Real Madrid’s season

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There was a 50 percent chance of it happening, and once Valencia and Real Betis had been drawn out of the Copa del Rey hat, it meant that, yes, we were going to see a two-legged El Clasico semi-final.

Moreover, the second leg at the Santiago Bernabeu precedes a league match between the two teams at the same venue just 72 hours later.

It’s the first time in Barcelona’s history that they will have played two consecutive games at the Bernabeu, and given their recent record there, the Blaugrana will be entirely confident of continuing their run of victories. Continue reading

Is a Copa exit a blessing in disguise for Barcelona?

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Wednesday night sees the completion of the Copa del Rey quarterfinals for 2018/19, and there’s little doubt that the fare on offer at Camp Nou will be required viewing.

Barcelona are 2-0 behind to Sevilla, and though they managed to turnaround a deficit in the last 16 tie against Levante, the Andalusian side is a different proposition entirely.

They’re also about as far removed from the team that were hammered 5-0 by the Catalans in last year’s final as it’s possible to be. Continue reading

Tottenham interested in Barcelona’s Malcom

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Tottenham are eyeing a move for Barcelona forward Malcom, according to media reports in Spain, with the reigning La Liga champions open to offers for the Brazilian.

The 21 year old signed from Bordeaux in the summer for a fee of €40 million, plus add ons, however injuries and the impressive form of French international Ousmane Dembele has restricted his first team opportunities so far in 2018-19.

Ernesto Valverde is now believed to be willing to listen to bids for the speedy attacker, although the club will be determined to see a financial return on their initial investment.

Continue reading

Where does Coutinho fit in at Barcelona now?

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Against Getafe on Sunday night, Barcelona’s record signing, Phillipe Coutinho, was again left on the bench.

That’s right, €160 million worth of talent being given a cursory eight-minute cameo at the end of the match.

Predictably it wasn’t enough time for the Brazilian to really make an impact, and that is becoming a consistent theme for him of late. Continue reading

Barcelona looking for Coutinho improvement in 2019

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Barcelona head into 2019 as La Liga leaders, with Ernesto Valverde chasing a second successive league title since taking over.

They lead rivals Atletico Madrid by three points, but the former Athletic Bilbao boss knows his players will have to go up a gear if they are to compete domestically and in Europe in the second half of the season.

Many of the squad are having solid, but unspectacular seasons, with the individual brilliance of Lionel Messi and Ousmane Dembele often making the key differences in recent weeks.

Continue reading

Could Alena’s emergence see Suarez/Rafinha moved on?

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Having patiently waited for an opportunity to become part of the first-team squad on a regular basis at Barcelona, Carles Alena finally appears ready to emerge from the shadows.

The 20-year-old is over his injury and playing consistently well, and the recent acknowledgment by the club that they won’t send him out on loan suggests that they have big plans for a player who is coveted by other teams.

Mauricio Pochettino was recently at a Barcelona B fixture, and the rumours, though unsubstantiated, were that he had come specifically to watch Alena. Continue reading

Lionel Messi’s injury might benefit Barcelona in the long-term

At the time, Lionel Messi’s fractured arm looked to be body blow for Barcelona. It came at the worst possible time for the Catalans, with games against Inter in the Champions League and Real Madrid in La Liga looming. Barca, as a team, are reliant on Messi and it was widely doubted that they would cope without their spiritual leader.

Since then, though, Barcelona have beaten Inter at home, drawing to the Italians at San Siro, thumped Real Madrid in El Clasico, also toppling Rayo Vallecano and Leganes on the road. Messi has been missed, but his absence has been dealt with an in an efficient way that looked beyond Ernesto Valverde’s side just a few weeks ago.

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Luis Suarez has stepped up to fill the void left by his Argentinean teammate, scoring six times in his last five appearances, including a hat-trick against Real Madrid. The Uruguayan has become the attacking hub around which Barcelona revolve in the final third, making up for Messi’s absence in more than one way.

Philippe Coutinho is another who has found his best form in recent weeks, driving Barcelona forward from deep in a way that Messi frequently does for the Catalans. Then there’s Ousmane Dembele, who has also come up with some big goals of late, and Arthur, who has slotted into the Barcelona midfield seamlessly since joining from Gremio in the summer transfer window.

It’s only natural that when Messi is on the pitch, Barca look to him. He has the ability to decide a game all on his own. The sport has never seen a player like him before, and so it’s not only natural, but it’s right that Valverde should build his team around such a talent. It’s in Barca’s interests to harness their best player.

Nonetheless, it’s good for the Catalans to have depth, as well as diversity in talent and tactics. This is where Messi’s recent injury, which has kept him sidelined for the past three weeks, could actually benefit Barcelona in the long-term, certainly in the latter stages of the season.

They have proved to themselves that they can cope without their number 10, that they can still pull off big results in big games. In recent years, Barca have tired late on in the season. This is what contributed to their humiliating exit from the Champions League to Roma last term, with Valverde reluctant to rotate his squad.

Messi is now into his thirties, meaning Valverde might have to take greater care with his greatest asset. The Argentinean perhaps can’t play every minute of every game for Barcelona. Not so long ago, this might have been considered an issue, given how reliant the Catalans were on him. Now, the burden may have been eased.

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