Barcelona even stronger now without Neymar, says Ter Stegen

The German goalkeeper has hailed the signings of Philippe Coutinho and Ousmane Dembele but also had words of praise for the PSG forward

Neymar’s €222 million move to Paris Saint-Germain has only served to make Barcelona stronger this season, says goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen.

The departure came at a time of perceived institutional crisis at Barca, with fan anger at the running of the club compounded by a thrashing to Real Madrid in the Supercopa de Espana.

However, Ernesto Valverde has led a serene march towards La Liga glory this season, and Barca are unbeaten after 24 league games – a run stretching back a club-record 31 league contests – with a healthy lead over Atletico Madrid in second.

Though Barca’s fabled ‘MSN’ strikeforce of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar has been broken up, Ter Stegen believes the squad as a whole has stepped up after the latter left, inspiring their success this term.

“The quality of Ney, you can’t explain it,” Ter Stegen told ESPN . “Because he was super important for us, as a person [and] in the team, as a footballer.

“Now, everyone needs to understand what he did because maybe he wants to win something else, also personally.

“His decision only he knows but in the end we had to compensate all this and this is not easy because he had so much quality, but we did it in a different way and now we have a very, very strong team.

“I think we’ve got some new players who have made us even stronger and hopefully they feel good and comfortable in the team and they adapt very fast.”

Two of the players drafted in to compensate for the loss of Neymar are Ousmane Dembele and Philippe Coutinho.

The pair joined in deals that could be worth over €300m, but Ter Stegen says both deserve time to show they can fill the Brazil star’s boots.

“Dembele didn’t play very often because he was injured [and] Coutinho just came,” Ter Stegen said.

“We always need to give them time and be patient because they are young and they have some great years ahead.”

Barca travel to Chelsea on Tuesday for the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie. Valverde has named the strongest squad possible, with only the suspended Nelson Semedo and ineligible Coutinho missing.


Coutinho enjoying special union with ‘best in the world’ Messi

The Brazil international feels privileged to be playing alongside the five time Ballon d’Or winner and hopes to win silverware with the global star

Philippe Coutinho considers playing alongside Barcelona team-mate Lionel Messi “very special” as he believes the Argentine to be the best in the world.

Coutinho joined Barca from Liverpool in January after a protracted transfer saga and has settled in quickly, impressing with his early performances.

The Brazilian was strongly linked with a move to Camp Nou in pre-season and was reportedly upset when it did not go through.

But after finally getting his dream switch to Barca, Coutinho has the chance to play alongside Messi every week, with the Argentina star, Luis Suarez and Andres Iniesta making a strong impression on the 25-year-old.

“It’s something very special [to play with Messi],” Coutinho told Mundo Deportivo. “Not everyone has the opportunity to play with the best player in the world. This makes me very happy.

“[Messi and Suarez] received me very well. They are two great idols and being part of the team with them is a very good feeling.

“But not only with them, also with Andres and with the rest. For me it’s very special to live with this squad. For me, it’s a great experience and a great opportunity to be in this club.”

Coutinho’s transfer fee of €120million, potentially rising to €160m, makes him the most expensive signing in the club’s history, but he insists that is not a cause of pressure.

“No, for me it’s an honour and gives me pride,” Coutinho added. “But it’s something I have to set aside, so I can dedicate myself to playing football and doing it the way I always did.

“I have to improve and do well on the field to help the team achieve the things that they hired me for.

“Being here gives you the opportunity to play with the best and the opportunity to win titles, which is something that motivates me a lot.

“So I am very motivated to train every day to improve and learn so that everything goes well and in the end the titles arrive.”


I miss Coutinho – Salah on Brazilian’s switch to Barcelona

The duo starred in the Kops’ Fab Four, but for a short while as the Brazil international got his dream transfer to the Camp Nou

Mohamed Salah has revealed that he misses his friend and former Liverpool teammate, Philippe Coutinho following his big-money move to Barcelona in January.

Salah who was signed from Roma prior to the 2017-18 season struck a good relationship with the Brazil international, whom at the back of a disappointing summer where he was denied a move to the Catalan giants continued churning out stellar performances – in tandem with the former Chelsea star, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino.

But a club-record £142 million deal was agreed for the ex-Inter Milan player to transfer to the Spanish giants in the winter transfer window.

And the Egypt winger, proud to have been on the same team with him, admitted that he misses his friend.

“I miss him anyway!” Salah told Marca .

“He was my friend, a very nice guy. I wish him all the best in Barcelona because he is an incredible player, with a lot of quality.

“As a person, he’s very calm. I’m proud to have played by his side.”

While Coutinho has not set the Spanish League alight as expected, his friend, Salah is still enjoying the rich vein of form he was before he left Anfield.

The 25-year-old’s brace in Liverpool’s 2-2 draw against Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday took him to 21 goals in 25 English Premier League appearances this season.

Philippe Coutinho scores first Barcelona goal in semi-final win

The Brazilian came on at half-time and made a quick impact in his fifth appearance for the Blaugrana

Philippe Coutinho has scored his first Barcelona goal, just minutes after coming on against Valencia as a half-time substitute.

The Brazilian was dropped for the Copa del Rey semi-final second leg at Mestalla on Thursday, but came on at the break for the ineffective Andre Gomes.

And the 25-year-old made an instant impact, opening his Barcelona account in the 49th minute to give his side a 1-0 lead on the night, and a 2-0 advantage on aggregate.

Luis Suarez was the architect, going on a mazy run and crossing to the back post, where Coutinho slid in and finished low across the goalkeeper into the far post.

The Uruguayan, as fate would have it, also set up Coutinho’s first goal for Liverpool back in 2013.

It was the fifth appearance with Barcelona for the €160 million signing, two of which have been starts in La Liga and three of which have been substitute appearances in the Copa de Rey.

Prior to joining Barcelona last month, Coutinho scored 12 goals in all competitions for Liverpool in the 2017-18 season.

Ivan Rakitic would go on to add another goal for Barcelona in a comfortable 2-0 win, with the Blaugrana advancing to the final via a 3-0 aggregate victory.

The win moves Barca into the final for a record fifth time running.

Barcelona will take on Sevilla, who topped Leganes in the other semi-final, in the Copa del Rey final.


John Guidetti had Alaves heading towards a famous win at Camp Nou before Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi brought them crashing back to reality.

Lionel Messi assumed the familiar role of hero as Barcelona averted a Camp Nou scare to beat struggling Alaves 2-1 in LaLiga.

Atletico Madrid’s 3-0 win over Las Palmas earlier on Sunday placed a modicum of pressure on Ernesto Valverde’s runaway leaders and it seemed to weigh upon them in a ragged first-half showing.

Philippe Coutinho made his full debut, but it was a more unheralded January signing, Alaves’ Celta Vigo loanee John Guidetti, who threatened the upset with a fortuitous 23rd-minute opener.

Abelardo Fernandez’s side remain two points above the drop zone and were left to rue missed chances by the time Luis Suarez netted for the eighth top-flight match in succession with 18 minutes to play.

Typically, it fell to Messi to apply the coup de grace as he curled a delightful free-kick home in the 84th minute to spark raucous celebrations.

Barcelona remain undefeated and 11 points clear on their apparent procession to LaLiga glory.

Coutinho was lively in the opening stages but looked on as Barca’s old guard fashioned an opening in the 15th minute – Messi dropping deep and exchanging slick passes with Andres Iniesta and Suarez before forcing a clearance behind.

Alaves sprung forward from the corner and Marc-Andre ter Stegen was out sharply to deny Ibai Gomez. It was a warning Barca did not heed.

Fernando Pacheco saved low down from Suarez a few moments before Alaves streamed into a vacant Barcelona half on the counter-attack.

Guidetti bore down on Ter Stegen and enjoyed a touch of fortune as he lost his footing and kicked the ball against his other boot, the result leaving the Germany goalkeeper with no chance.

Ter Stegen arched his back to brilliantly keep out a header from Ruben Sobrino, who then ran out of steam having dribbled from halfway into the Barca box to get a shot away.

Coutinho almost found a response when his 32nd-minute effort was deflected wide, while Messi saw an angled free-kick pushed over before Pacheco tipped his next dead-ball attempt against the post to preserve Alaves’ unlikely advantage at the interval.

Seven minutes into the second half, Valverde opted to replace his full-backs, with Jordi Alba and Sergio Roberto on in place of the largely ineffective Lucas Digne and Nelson Semedo.

Their introduction added another dimension to Barca’s attacking play, but Messi was crowded out when he looked to convert Alba’s cutback from the byline.

Ibai should have given Valverde’s men a mountain to climb after the hour when he broke through on goal, only to cut back on himself and play in full-back Ruben Duarte, whose rasping shot was deflected behind by Gerard Pique.

Paco Alcacer replaced Coutinho in the hosts’ final change and Pacheco judged his angles perfectly in the 68th minute, standing up to thwart Suarez after Messi threaded a delightful pass through Duarte’s legs.

Paulinho was unable to bundle in when a roaming Pique caused havoc in the Alaves box, but the pressure eventually told.

Iniesta rolled back the years, embarking on a jinking run before sending a searching cross to the back post, where Suarez’s volley took a pair of deflections to spin beyond a helpless Pacheco.

Mubarak Wakaso clattered into Alcacer on the edge of the box, leaving a sense of inevitability when Messi stood over the consequent set-piece six minutes from time, though that did not make his decisive strike any less exquisite.

Alaves felt aggrieved when handball claims against Samuel Umtiti were rejected following a late raid into the area, but, for all the visitors’ gallant efforts, earlier wasted opportunities meant they only had themselves to blame.

Valverde: Coutinho could make his Barcelona debut next week

Philippe Coutinho may make his Barcelona debut against former club Espanyol in next week’s Copa del Rey second leg at the Nou Camp.

Barcelona finally brought one of the biggest transfer sagas over much of the past year to an end earlier this month after agreeing to pay a club-record £142million fee to Liverpool for the Brazilian playmaker.

A thigh injury sustained prior to his move has kept Coutinho sidelined but he could make his Barcelona bow against the club for whom he featured 16 times while on loan from Inter Milan for a few months in 2012.

Espanyol hold a surprise 1-0 lead from Wednesday’s first leg but Barcelona boss Ernesto Valverde, while hoping to include Coutinho in his matchday squad for the first time, is hesitant to ink in the 25-year-old’s name for Thursday’s return fixture.

He said in quotes published on AS: “I’m reluctant to put an exact date on a start for Coutinho, but the progress of the injury is very positive. He had a small muscular problem in his quadriceps which is a particularly sensitive zone when striking the ball with power, but I hope he’s soon with us.

“Thursday is possible and I hope that today he can train with the rest of the squad.”

Valverde has more pressing concerns as he and Barcelona switch their attentions back to LaLiga, with the Catalan giants nine points clear at the top of the standings before the latest round of fixtures.

Barcelona travel to Real Betis on Sunday hoping to stretch their winning sequence in the league to six matches.

Valverde said at his pre-match press conference: “The players won’t be distracted by the second leg against Espanyol next Thursday. Ultimately, LaLiga is the competition that they are always most strongly focused on.

“The idea is to keep this winning dynamic going and to do as well as we did in the first half of the season. But Betis will not be an easy opponent to start against.

“Betis like to get the ball into the opposition’s half, and try to dominate possession. So one of the keys to the game will be dealing with the pressure that they create. It’s going to be an interesting, difficult encounter.”

Betis have won three of their last four in the Spanish top flight to move up to eighth, a position which manager Quique Setien believes affords his side some comfort ahead of the visit of Barcelona.

He told the club’s official website: “It is true that we are at a time when we are all very even in the intermediate zone of the table, a victory or a defeat will raise many positions or take them away.

“Our situation right now is one of confidence and optimism, we are facing this game at a good time that will allow us to take on everything we do and hope with great confidence, we will be brave because we have to be.”



Andres Iniesta ‘Not Worried’ About Losing Barcelona Place Despite Coutinho’s Arrival

Barcelona captain Andres Iniesta insisted that he isn’t worried about losing his place in the starting lineup despite the arrival of Philippe Coutinho.

At 33, Iniesta already has a long and illustrious career for both the Catalan side and the national team, winning seven La Liga titles, four Champions Leagues, two European Championships and a World Cup among others for Barcelona and Spain.

The arrival of Coutinho for £142m this week however could suggest Barcelona are readying the heir for Iniesta’s throne, but the Spaniard claims he is just focusing on his own performances and wants what is best for the team.

Iniesta told Marca: “I’m a club player and I’ve always said that anyone we have has to be the best and he’s one of the best.

“I’m not [worried or thinking about] retirement or losing my place in the team, that’s not an issue for me and I want us to achieve our goals together.

“The coach will decide who plays but I feel good and I’m doing well. There will be no problems between teammates.”

Barcelona have been in imperious form this season as they sit top of La Liga table, unbeaten and nine points ahead of second-placed Atletico Madrid, and remain one of the favorites for the Champions League despite a tough last-16 tie against Chelsea.

Iniesta himself has been a key part of Barcelona’s early form under Ernesto Valverde, and believes that the arrival of Coutinho can help make them even stronger in the second half of the season.


He continued: “Coutinho coming in doesn’t affect me. He is one more player, another teammate and what’s good for the club is good for everyone.

“He’s an innate talent and he has come to this club to continue developing and improving as a player. He’s one of the best in his position and his profile is the kind of player we like here.”

Philippe Coutinho reveals that former Barcelona star Ronaldinho has “always been my idol”

Philippe Coutinho is dreaming of following in the footsteps of Ronaldinho at Barcelona.

Having become the second most expensive player in the world after completing his £142m move from Liverpool

to the Nou Camp, Coutinho is getting used to life at his new club.

And in a chat with Barca’s official YouTube channel following his move, the club’s newest star says that he’ll take inspiration from “all the Brazilians” at Barca, but Ronaldinho specifically.

“All the Brazilians had a great story at Barcelona but Ronaldinho was always my idol,” he told Barca TV, before adding that his hopes for his time at Barca are simply for “everything to go well. I will work hard to live up to the expectations on me in training and on the pitch.”

LaLiga: Coutinho fee to Barcelona fair says Pirlo

The former Milan and Juventus star knows a thing or two about creative midfielders, and he compared Coutinho’s price to that of another Liverpool star.

The Brazilian will complete his £142m (€160m) move from Liverpool to Barcelona on Monday, but the key question is: Is he worth it?

Well according to Pirlo, he definitely is.