PRIMERA MATCH REPORT

Primera Week 18 - 7 Jan 2018 (15.15 UK)
Barcelona 3 - 0 Levante
Messi 12, Suarez 36, Paulinho 90
Camp Nou

Ernesto Valverde singled out his new boys for praise as Barcelona marched on at the top of La Liga with a 3-0 win against Levante on Sunday.

Ousmane Dembele made his first start in four months, Paulinho grabbed his seventh goal of the season, joining Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi on the scoresheet, and Philippe Coutinho was paraded in the corridors of Camp Nou.

“They’re a well-organised team and difficult to beat,” remarked the Coachafter the match.

“They’ve only conceded a few goals and they haven’t lost away from home since September.

“They made it difficult for us. We knew that beforehand and that’s why [this result] has more value.

“Our rhythm suffered a bit because there were many fouls. That made it harder for us because they had their lines close together and played aggressively.

“Still, we managed to score in the first half and we were focused until the last minute.

“It was our first League game after Christmas and we wanted to keep our run of wins going.

“Coutinho? We hope he gives us a lot. He’s a player who scores goals, sets them up and plays well on the wing and through the middle.

“I think he can help us a lot. He’s important around the world. We’re here to help him and that he helps us because his success will be ours.

“He’s a player who can bring us many things. He can help us a lot, especially going forward, and we must take advantage of his versatility.

“We followed him for a long time and now we hope he’ll bring us many things. I’ll wait until I see him train for at least one day.

“I’ve watched him in many videos for Liverpool and Brazil. I don’t see him as a goalkeeper! We hope he adapts quickly. Great players adapt quickly and this is a guarantee.

“Dembele? We’re happy with him, he played in the position he did at the start of the season.

“He’s pacey, he’s good at one-on-ones and makes it look easy. He gets stuck in and, naturally, felt a bit tired afterwards.

“It was his first start after the injury. He lacks rhythm and needs to be handled carefully, but I saw him well, playing with pace and facing his opponents. It’s clear he’s in the process of improving.

“Paulinho? When there’s a ball up for grabs, it’s his. For that, you must have faith and go for it.

“The ball always drops to him and this is a quality of his because he joins our attacks and helps us a lot going forward. We’re delighted with his contribution.

“Alba and Messi’s link-up? I suffered when facing them as an opposition Coach, now the others are suffering.

“Squad depth? We’re lucky to have great players and we have to motivate them so that they can help us because you can’t go a whole season with just 11 players.

“We’re happy with how things are going, but I know from experience that results are what you’re judged on, so we can never lower our guard.

“Arnaiz? He believes in himself. He’s a forward who plays for our B team like he does with us, and I think he can help us.

“I like his attitude, but opportunities are won by the players.”

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Barcelona: Ter Stegen; Sergi Roberto (Arnaiz 86), Mascherano, Vermaelen, Alba; Rakitic, Paulinho, Iniesta (Gomes 76); Messi, Suarez, Dembele (Semedo 67)
Levante: Oier; Moore, Cabaco, Postigo, Luna; Jason (Samu 83), Lerma (Rober 62), Lukic, Doukoure, Ivi; Boateng (Nano 74)
Ref: Del Cerro Grande
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