Dembélé keeps his place without playing as Coutinho struggles
The technical staff at Barcelona are "very worried" about Coutinho's recent struggles and Dembélé remains in the driving seat despite missing almost a month.
Barcelona have a problem with Philippe Coutinho. He's completely failing to perform on the pitch right now and what's worse, he shows no signs of being able to turn things around easily. He had another hugely disappointing game against Real Madrid in the Copa del Rey semi-final on Wednesday night. Having shown he can't do the job as an attacking midfielder and subdued and miserable as the left of a front three, he's got no other option than to sit down and have a long, hard think about where this season's gone wrong.
The Barcelona technical staff are "extemely worried" about the player. "We need to get him back [on form] no matter what" was the message from the dressing room in the aftermath of the Copa del Rey Clásico draw. "He's a great player, but something's blocking him performing", was the insistent explanation. The most expensive signing in Barcelona's history (160 million euros), Coutinho appears to be suffering from a complex and is possibly overawed by the level of the players around him.
Barcelona coach admits Dembélé has moved ahead of Coutinho
A few weeks ago, Jon Aspiazu, the club's assistant coach, said: "It's true that Philippe is not at the same level as he was last season and that Dembélé has moved ahead of him slightly." Although the French attacker has been out for three weeks with an ankle strain, he is an option for the trip to San MaméDembélé ahead of Coutinho no matter whats on Sunday and there is a serious chance he starts ahead of Coutinho.
The impression is that Coutinho hasn't taken advantage of his string of starts in Dembélé's absence. Valverde hopes to have all his attackers ready and available for training on Thursday ahead of the game against Athletic Bilbao. Dembélé is back on the scene and it seems Coutinho will be brushed to the side.