Sport

Sergio Busquets: Barcelona caught 'asleep' in Copa del Rey loss

Sergio Busquets: Barcelona caught 'asleep' in Copa del Rey loss”

Philippe Coutinho returned to the Barcelona starting line-up for the first time in a month on Thursday night and manager Ernesto Valverde has told him what he must to do keep hold of his place.

Jeison Murillo is taking heart from Philippe Coutinho's late goal after Barcelona were stunned 2-1 by Levante in the first leg of their Copa del Rey tie.

Valverde introduced Arsenal-linked Denis Suarez off the bench and it was the midfielder's mazy dribble that invited Coke into a clumsy challenge, allowing Coutinho to give Barca a much-needed foothold ahead of the return encounter.

The 26-year-old arrived at the Nou Camp from Liverpool in January 2018 for £105m and started 16 La Liga games in the second half of the season, scoring eight goals.

Coutinho seems unable to dislodge Ousmane Dembele from the forward role he enjoys alongside Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez.

In the 18 man squad, most names are of the younger and academy players who are certainly going to get a chance to show their talent, however, there will be a few first teamers playing as well because Barcelona will certainly be looking to carry home a few away goals in the bag and need experienced men to do so.

Arsenal appear to be in the driving seat to land the one-time capped Spain cap global, but it seems they could be struggling to raise the funds with a report on Wednesday, suggesting they may need to sell Aaron Ramsey to make way for Suarez.

"When [Ousmane] Dembele wasn't playing, everyone was asking me about him", Valverde responded when asked if Coutinho's unhappy with his lack of minutes at the moment.

The London Evening Standard claim the Nou Camp giants are considering their options with the playmaker.

But a decision on Coutinho may not come until the summer, when Barca have sorted out their managerial situation.

Mauricio Pochettino has been mooted as a viable option, while Antonio Conte and Laurent Blanc are out of work.



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