Ernesto Valverde says Barcelona have “high hopes” for Philippe Coutinho after his debut against Espanyol in the Copa del Rey.
Coutinho appeared for the final 25 minutes of Barca’s 2-0 victory over Espanyol, which booked their place in the semi-finals, and Valverde was delighted with what he saw from the former Liverpool attacker.
“We knew it wasn’t going to be easy. We had to fight, but we were involved in the game until the last minute,” the Coach said after the game.
“We dominated like we did in the first leg, but if you don’t take a 3-0 lead, which gives you peace of mind, you always risk elimination.
“We wanted to avoid that this time around, and luckily we’re in the semi-finals. Taking a 2-0 lead in the first half put us ahead in the tie.
“However, if you don’t kill it off by scoring the third goal, everything is left up in the air. Still, we carried the weight of the game and played well.
“Ultimately, Leo assumed the responsibility of getting the ball and holding on to it. We could’ve won the game sooner with the chances we had.
“You have to know how to play with that pressure and tension, and we did. Espanyol did well defensively, so we had to dig in until the final whistle.
“Coutinho? He’s a real top player and we want him to settle in easily. Good players always find it easy to adapt.
“We saw him ask for the ball, and when he appeared near [Espanyol’s] box, he created a feeling of danger because he’s a player who has goals and killer passes in him.
“We hope he can help us because we have high hopes for him. We think he’ll be good for us. He’s good at one-on-ones.
“It wasn’t a simple game, but it went well. It’s just the beginning for us, and we’re happy.
“Real Madrid out of the Copa? That’s the Copa, you can’t take anything for granted. Espanyol played like Leganes in the first leg.
“They were always involved in the tie. Valencia suffered against Alaves, Sevilla pulled off a great achievement and Leganes had a great game.
“Semi-final opponents? All our potential rivals are complicated to face. If we’re in the semi-finals, it’s because we’ve all worked well.
“Madrid are a great team, I won’t deny that, but Leganes went through because they did well in the tie.
“We’re where we are because we’ve worked hard. You can’t have a bad day in the Copa because you’ll get knocked out otherwise.
“Am I surprised about Madrid’s elimination? I don’t stop to think about others. I only take care of what’s mine.”