10:23 AM ET
New Barcelona coach Xavi Hernandez has said Philippe Coutinho can become an important player for the club if he can rediscover his confidence.
Coutinho, 29, has failed to live up to expectations at Barca since signing from Liverpool in a club-record transfer worth €160 million in 2018.
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The Brazilian has struggled with injuries since returning from a loan spell with Bayern Munich in 2020, but Xavi is willing to give him another chance to prove himself at Camp Nou.
“Coutinho is someone who can play in various positions and he can be important for the team,” Xavi said ahead of Saturday’s match against Espanyol, his first as Barca coach.
“He needs to re-find himself and recover his confidence. If he does, he will help us a lot. He has an innate talent.”
Xavi said it is now up to Coutinho, who recently made his 100th appearance for Barca, to deliver, suggesting his problems are more mental than physical.
“It depends on him,” he added. “He will get chances because he’s a player I like personally. It’s more psychological than anything because he has talent.”
Xavi Hernandez believes Philippe Coutinho could be an important player for Barcelona. Pedro Salado/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images
Xavi is also backing Dani Alves, who is now 38 but re-joined Barcelona on a contract until the end of the season last week, to have a positive effect on the squad.
“I know Dani well and he’s going to contribute in every department,” Xavi said. “We know how he plays, we’ve seen his recent games [for Sao Paulo and Brazil] and he’s in great shape — his medical showed that.
“He’s a spectacular player. He’s a positive guy, a winner, his character rubs off on others and he has soul. I have no doubt that he will contribute, it’s just a shame he can’t play until January [when he can be registered].”
Xavi said he has been most surprised so far by the “talent” in the squad but pressed the need to start with a win against Espanyol at Camp Nou this weekend in the Catalan derby.
Barca sit ninth in LaLiga going into the game, level on 17 points with their local rivals and 11 points behind early leaders Real Sociedad.
“[Winning] is a matter of urgency,” Xavi said. “We’re ninth in the table, that’s the reality. I have translated that to the players, but without pressure, because there are some very young lads.
“We’ve tried to implant our style in the little time we’ve had as well as analysing the opposition. We have players that have already played in a similar way. Camp Nou must be a fortress. We can’t slip up.”
Barca are missing Ansu Fati, Sergio Aguero, Martin Braithwaite for Espanyol’s visit, while Pedri, Ousmane Dembele and Sergi Roberto are also likely to miss out as they enter the final stages of their recoveries.