Coutinho impresses on Barca debut

Barcelona manager Ernesto Valverde has high hopes for Philippe Coutinho after the ex-Liverpool playmaker made his debut in Thursday’s win over Espanyol.

Barca progressed to the semi-finals of the Copa del Rey thanks to goals from Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi, before the Brazilian made an appearance off the bench for the final 20 minutes.

“We have a lot of hope for him,” Valverde said. “In the sense that he will be good for our game, he can help us with his self-confidence, his ability one-on-one, to see the free player when he is close to the area, the danger is sensed.”

Barca were trailing in the tie after Oscar Melendo had put Espanyol ahead in the first leg, and midfielder Sergio Busquets thought their cross-town rivals got ahead of themselves in celebrating their one-goal advantage ahead of the second leg at Camp Nou.

“Even if there are favourites, we have to prove it,” Busquets said. “Yes, we were better in the tie, more than the scoreboard reflects.

“In Cornella it was a more insane game, they celebrated in Cornella as if they had passed the round, but the tie lasts 180 minutes and we put things in their place.”

With Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid both eliminated from the competition and Barca 11 points clear at the top of La Liga, the Catalans seem on course for a domestic double, while they face Chelsea in the next round of the Champions League.

“The truth is that this is a tournament that we have won a lot in recent years. It is clear that there are priorities in the season, but the Copa is very important for us.

“We are in a privileged position in LaLiga, in the Copa we are there. We are going to go step by step, which is what has allowed us to be where we are, I hope that in the end we will be fighting for all.”

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