Leo Messi’s injury is a chance for Philippe Coutinho to prove that he is a heavyweight at Barcelona as well as start paying back a huge transfer fee
Philippe Coutinho has been one of the most successful players at Liverpool, Barcelona and Brazil’s national team over the past few years. The midfielder keeps on getting better season after season.
But with Lionel Messi’s arm injury set to keep the Argentinean on the sidelines for around three weeks, the little wizard faces his most difficult challenge at Barça so far, as the demands are now for Coutinho to step up in his absence.
Coutinho is already a fan-favorite at Barcelona, but it is fair to say that he has not yet been part of the team’s most difficult and most important games. Last season, he contributed in the Copa del Rey, however the league was already pretty much decided. The Brazilian was unable compete in the UEFA Champions League, due to arriving to Spain in January and having already represented Liverpool in the competition.
But this time around, the pressure is bigger and the expectations are growing, especially now that Lionel Messi is set to miss-out on El Clasico next weekend. Although Real Madrid are not exactly in the form of their lives, a collision with Barcelona always remains a special game.
Coutinho’s job to deliver in El Clasico
The significance of this match for the fans of both teams means that potentially stealing the show would boost Coutinho’s image at the club even more. Whereas a defeat would put Real Madrid back on track and quite possibly change their whole season, which would most definitely lead to heavy criticism to Philippe et al, implying that they are not qualified enough to lead the team in the absence of Argentina’s captain.
The Brazilian has shown he can occupy several positions, as wide play-maker on both flanks, in central-midfield as an advanced ‘8’, a classical 10 or even as a false 9, as was the case in a couple of games under Brendan Rodgers back at Liverpool.
However, it seems more and more obvious that the best tactical set-up at the moment at Barcelona, is the midfield trio composed of Arthur Melo, Sergio Busquets and Ivan Rakitic, plying their trade behind Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Philippe Coutinho. With Messi out, French international Ousmane Dembelé is the most likely direct replacement, leaving Coutinho on the left flank, which is the most reasonable solution Ernesto Valverde could come up with to maintain balance and at the same time provide heavy offensive threat.
Philippe Coutinho has a very important season ahead, which could quite possibly end up being the most important campaign of his career, in the event that he manages to prove his worth in the biggest games. A few challenges ahead will be Real Madrid at the weekend, the Champions League and Copa América 2019. The Brazilian has got everything to finally have the season of his life.