In focus – Philippe Coutinho’s starting debut for Barcelona

Philippe Coutinho was handed his first Barcelona start in their 2-1 win over Alaves at the Nou Camp on Sunday night.

The £142million January signing from Liverpool came on as a second-half substitute in the Copa del Rey clash with Espanyol in midweek, but how did he fare on his LaLiga bow?

Role

Coutinho showed some moments of class (Manu Fernandez/AP)
Coutinho showed some moments of class (Manu Fernandez/AP)

The Brazilian started on the right of a front three alongside fellow South Americans Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez. However, he drifted over to the left more frequently in the second half – the role he was accustomed to at Liverpool.

Link-up play

Coutinho was neat and tidy in possession and played defence-splitting passes to Nelson Semedo and Paulinho in the first half and substitute Jordi Alba after the break. He linked up well with former Liverpool team-mate Suarez on occasion and there were promising signs that the duo could rekindle the partnership that flourished at Anfield. He made plenty of intelligent runs but passes were over-hit and had plenty of tricks to keep the crowd entertained.

Goal threat

The 25-year-old would have been celebrating a debut goal in the 33rd minute had his shot not cannoned off Ruben Duarte. The ball fell to the forward in space on the edge of the area and replays suggested it would have nestled in the corner had the defender not thrown himself in front of the shot. At times he was perhaps too eager to impress and tried to be too clever, with potential openings wasted.

Work-rate

His work-rate could not be faulted. He was always busy, wanted the ball and tracked back when needed. He was on the receiving end of a crunching early tackle and a couple more followed, but he showed good strength to keep hold of the ball before laying off a pass to Andres Iniesta with the outside of his boot in the early stages of the first half.

Overall

There’s plenty more to come from the playmaker. He lasted 66 minutes before being taken off for Paco Alcacer, but once he is fully fit the signs were there that he will light up the Nou Camp.

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Football Paradise Staff Reporter

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