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Philippe Coutinho handed second chance as part of Ronald Koeman's new Barcelona plan

Mirror logo Mirror 17/09/2020 12:31:00 Alex Richards

When Philippe Coutinho was being shopped around the Premier League earlier this summer, he must have thought his Barcelona days were behind him.

Dumped out on loan at Bayern Munich last summer, there appeared no way back at Camp Nou for Barcelona's record signing.

When he bagged Bayern's final two goals in their 8-2 Champions League hammering of his parent club en route to winning the European Cup with the German giants, it was all rather poetic.

But with Ronald Koeman now at the helm in Catalunya, and with Premier League clubs having balked at the money needed to bring Coutinho back to England this summer, the ex-Liverpool playmaker now has a second chance at Barca.

His No.7 shirt may have been taken away and handed to Antoine Griezmann - Coutinho will now don the No.14 - but Koeman is handing him a fresh opportunity to turn round his Catalan nightmare.

In the club's second pre-season friendly on Wednesday night, Coutinho was again handed a starting berth in a new look attack by Koeman.

Antoine Griezmann, Philippe Coutinho, Sergi Roberto are posing for a picture: Coutinho is getting his chance at an unlikely comeback at Camp Nou © REUTERSCoutinho is getting his chance at an unlikely comeback at Camp Nou

In a 4-2-3-1 formation with Frenkie de Jong and Sergio Busquets sitting at the base of midfield, the Dutchman started Lionel Messi at the point of attack, with Griezmann in behind, new signing Francisco Trincao operating down the right and Coutinho coming in off the left.

It is a role that he occupied for Bayern last term when called upon by Hansi Flick but during his previous tenure at Barca hadn't been on offer given the club's love affair with 4-3-3 - a formation where, whether in the centre of midfield or high on the left side of attack, he was found to be a square peg in a round hole at Camp Nou.

But after scoring in the 3-0 weekend win over Gimnastic and now bagging the opener in a 3-1 win against Girona - Messi notched the other two - he would appear to be in pole position to kickoff the La Liga season in the starting lineup.

Koeman wants Barcelona to again focus on dominating possession and playing the game in the opposition half, having seen

Speaking about his selection after the game, which his side won 3-1, Koeman explained: "My opinion is to have the best attack we can put on the pitch and some players, they can occupy different positions.

"That is why we changed. It will be more difficult for the opponent if we change positions.

a group of baseball players standing on top of a grass covered field: Coutinho and Griezmann are all smiles © Enric Fontcuberta/EPA-EFE/REX/ShutterstockCoutinho and Griezmann are all smiles

"Like Coutinho can play on the left, can play in the middle. Like Griezmann can play on the right, can play in the middle. Messi can play the nine, the winger inside, and it's a good thing to have those kinds of possibilities."

On the subject of Coutinho in particular, Koeman insisted: "He is in high spirits at the moment, training and playing well.

"He has great quality. We must bear in mind that he needs the support of the coach and the fans."

Coutinho playing a key role in Barcelona's 2020-21 campaign perhaps wasn't a story many thought would be happening a few weeks ago.

But now the 28-year-old looks likely to get the chance to salvage a dream which had previously been left in tatters.

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17. syyskuuta 2020 15:31:00 Categories: Mirror

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