Barcelona boss, Ernesto Valverde, has asked Philippe Coutinho to up the ante to regain his place in the starting XI and put pressure on players who are playing more regularly. 

The Brazilian attacking-midfielder scored the only goal for his side in the shock 2-1 defeat at Levante in the first leg of their Copa del Rey last-16 tie on Thursday. However, despite scoring a crucial penalty late in the match, his overall performance was far from satisfactory, leaving his boss wanting more.

After the game, Valverde addressed the Coutinho conundrum, revealing what the player must do to play more regularly. 

“When I wasn’t playing Dembele everyone asked about him,” Valverde said after the game, as quoted by ​Marca

“Now he plays and Coutinho doesn’t and it is the other way around. The players have to work to turn things around. He is not happy, he has to fight, but one or the other almost always plays and Coutinho gives us a lot and will give us a lot.”

Jeison Murillo made a forgettable debut for Barcelona, but Valverde said he was happy with his display. 

“I’m happy with Murillo,” the coach said.

“He showed his experience. It was a difficult match for the kids but that is it.”

Barcelona youngster Juan Miranda suffered against Levante before being eventually replaced by Sergi Roberto.

“Miranda doesn’t have any physical problems,” he added.

“I had to change because it was the best thing I could do and I had to help the team. Juan is young and he has a lot that he can give us in the future but I thought the best thing was to replace him and give him some rest.”


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