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Philippe Coutinho is back and ready to haunt Liverpool

The Brazilian will relish Anfield return

FC Barcelona v Manchester United - UEFA Champions League Quarter Final: Second Leg Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images

Football is as much about timing as it is about skill. Being in the right place at the right time.

Cristiano Ronaldo has made a career out of it in the last few seasons when, frankly, there’s not been an awful lot else in his game to admire.

Philippe Coutinho has had to take a fair bit of flak from the Barca faithful, much of it justified, but, just as we critique, we should also praise when it’s due.

And boy does the Brazilian deserve the acclaim after his best performance this season in a Barca shirt.

As is customary, Lionel Messi will dominate the headlines, but Coutinho’s performance can’t be understated.

When most of us were expecting Dembele to walk back into the starting XI, Ernesto Valverde sprung a surprise and kept Coutinho in alongside the Argentinian and Luis Suarez.

The Uruguayan can’t buy a goal in the Champions League, and he would’ve paid handsomely to be the one to have executed a quite sublime 25 yard curler into the top corner which beat David De Gea all ends up.

A finger in the ear gesture might not be the best way to celebrate and answer your critics, even if it’s understandable.

Far better to deliver consistently on the pitch, which has been Coutinho’s problem in 2018/19.

But back to timing things just right.

Ronaldo only ever really came alive for Real Madrid in the latter stages of the Champions League in his last couple of seasons.

Whilst it wouldn’t be right to just brush aside Coutinho’s lack of contribution in this campaign thus far, he has been building up a head of steam, and Manchester United were on the receiving end of a great all-round performance.

With confidence levels rising, and the expectation that he (and Suarez) will face his old team over two legs to win a place in the Madrid showpiece, there’s no better motivator for the wide man.

It’s a little cliche to term this as a ‘zero to hero’ type situation too, but with media queuing up to place Coutinho at any number of European heavyweights in the summer, these final few weeks of the season could cement his future with the Blaugranes.

It would take an enormous shock for Liverpool not to be Barca’s semifinal opponent, and were their old boy come back to haunt them, there won’t be too many arguments against giving Coutinho another chance to prove that the €160m invested in him wasn’t wasted.

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