Coutinho is getting back to form
Coutinho’s recent stint on the bench seemed to get plenty of people excited. Marca said he’d hit ‘rock bottom,’ there were lots of reports asking ‘where’s it all gone wrong’ for the Brazilian, and even a few crazy rumours about a possible move to Manchester United.
The truth was far more mundane. Coutinho had got injured, lost his place to a sizzling Ousmane Dembele and then hit a bit of a bad patch. The thing was that because he cost so much money, and because Liverpool are flying without him, he was a really easy target.
Having said that, it was still a surprise to see him start against Eibar, but it was a good move by Ernesto Valverde. Coutinho looked far more like his old self, setting up Luis Suarez for the first goal and generally producing a much-improved display.
@Phil_Coutinho with the Samba Skills! #BarçaEibar pic.twitter.com/SU00o7q5Mo— LaLiga (@LaLigaEN) January 13, 2019
Valverde has repeatedly insisted Coutinho and Dembele can play together, and even offered us a little glimpse of what that looks like when the Frenchman arrived in the second half.
It still seems looks like a straight choice between the two for a place in attack alongside Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez. Dembele has put forward a very strong case already this season, but Coutinho showed against Eibar that he still has plenty to offer.
Cucurella is thriving at Eibar
Barcelona came up against loanee Marc Cucurella against Eibar, and the youngster had a lively game up against Sergi Roberto.
The 20-year-old seemed to relish the duel against his former team-mate, and he troubled him with his pace down the left flank.
Cucurella has enjoyed regular football with Jose Luis Mendilibar’s side this season, appearing 15 times in all. He’s bagged assists against Alaves and Real Madrid and scored against Sporting Gijon in the Copa del Rey.
His future is unclear at the moment. Eibar have made it pretty clear they want to sign the youngster permanently and activate the purchase option in his loan agreement.
Valverde said pre-match that Cucurella could return to Barca, while the youngster said in a recent interview with Sport: “I can not hide that I always dream of succeeding at Barça but at Eibar I am very comfortable. I’d stay here for another year because I’m growing up as a footballer.”
Barcelona have been a little short at left-back this season with B-teamer Juan Miranda playing back-up to Jordi Alba. However, Cucurella has been playing in a more advanced position at Eibar which may have an impact on decisions over his future.
Messi reaches new levels of GOATness
Lionel Messi wasn’t at his best against Eibar but he still managed to score, might have had a few more and reached yet another La Liga landmark.
The Barcelona captain became the first player to reach 400 goals in the Spanish top flight in just 435 appearances.
Here’s how they’ve all gone in:
A breakdown of Messi's 400 La Liga goals. pic.twitter.com/O9kVfRU4Qk— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) January 13, 2019
Ernesto Valverde called him “monstrous” after the game, while Marc-Andre ter Stegen reckons it will be “difficult” for anyone to repeat that feat.
The current list of La Liga topscorers suggests “difficult” might be something of an understatement.
Messi – 400 goals— LaLiga (@LaLigaEN) January 13, 2019
Cristiano – 311 goals
Zarra – 251 goals
Hugo Sanchez – 234 goals
Raul – 228 goals
Leo Messi is the top scorer in #LaLigaHistory! ⚽️ pic.twitter.com/M5jLHKYmy7
It’s yet another incredible achievement from Messi who is showing absolutely no signs of slowing down even though he’ll celebrate his 32nd birthday in 2019.