Valverde backing for mis-firing Coutinho

Philippe Coutinho failed to grasp his latest opportunity in the Barcelona starting line-up during Sunday’s 2-0 win over Girona.

Ernesto Valverde praised Philippe Coutinho’s creativity and character after a tough outing for the Brazil star in Barcelona’s 2-0 win at Girona.

Goals from Nelson Semedo and Lionel Messi restored Barca’s five-point lead at the top of LaLiga, although Girona caused a share of problems for their illustrious visitors – even after Bernardo Espinosa’s 51st-minute sending off.

It might have been a more straightforward victory had Coutinho converted a sublime Messi pass midway through the first half and he botched another one-on-one opportunity in stoppage time.

The former Liverpool forward is reportedly unsettled at Barca, a year on from his blockbuster move, and is no longer a natural choice in Valverde’s strongest XI.

Nevertheless, Coutinho’s head coach feels there are better times ahead.

“What I like about him is that he always tries things and takes on his man,” Valverde said.

“It might work or it might not.

“He had chances but didn’t score because their goalkeeper is excellent.

“He’ll convert other chances soon.”

Valverde singled out Coutinho’s compatriot Arthur for praise after the midfielder gave Barcelona much-needed control upon his 58th-minute introduction in place of Arturo Vidal.

“We were having some difficulty because they were pressing high and we couldn’t pass through it on occasions,” he explained.

“These losses of possession led to Girona’s main chances.

“When Arthur went on, he had the ability to keep the ball.

“Plus, they were down to 10 and it was a matter of controlling the game and of finding the open man.

“In the end, we had more chances and sealed the result.”