Coutinho a black mark on an otherwise flawless night at Camp Nou
Coutinho was whistled by his own fans and Lionel Messi had to intervene to ask them to stop as Barcelona look for peace over the next month to ensure treble.
Messi asked the fans not to whistle and jeer Coutinho after he scored his side's second goal. After the game he repeated the sentiments saying "now is not the time to criticise anybody" with Barcelona just three games away from sealing a treble. For a player to be subbed off in a Champions League semi-final to whistles and boos says a lot about the relationship between the fans and the Brazilian. After a gesture against Manchester United to the fans, he could not avoid their scorn on Wednesday night.
He played poorly and the stat that is most surprising is his lack of involvement. He touched the ball just 35 times, which is the fewest amount of touches for a Barcelona starter. To his credit, he did have to adopt a more defensive mindset but that figure is still very low. At the start of the game, he had a couple of chances, one on either foot but the first was saved by Alisson and the second was ruled out for offside. The last time we saw him doing anything in attack for the first goal. He played the ball across the field to Arutro Vidal and he recieved the ball from Vidal and found Jordi Alba before the perfect pass into Suarez' path.
Coutinho goes missing and Valverde acts
At this point in the game, Coutinho went missing. And it was the start of the second half when the Barcelona fans turned on him. He lost a number of 50/50 battles at a time when Barcelona were undering increasing pressure and they needed to hold onto the ball. Valverde acted fast when he realised the game was passing him by and made a change that ultimately won the game for the home side. This is just another chapter as Barcelona fans and Coutinho's relationship deteriorates.
Nobody can shy away from the fact that there is an issue with Coutinho. First, the critics in the press who spoke about his performances but now the fans are on his back too and while the Manchester United gesture was for the critics in the press, it was also heard and seen by those fans whistling on Wednesday night. The dressing room is concerned as to how it will play out with three finals to win a treble and the club's directors are watching closely too with concern. The mantra that has been repeated since he arrived is "Coutinho has been and will be important for Barcelona. He has many years left on his contract."
It is acceptable to start thinking about transfer possibilities but Kia Joorabchian y Giuliano Bertolucci have been swarmed by Premier League clubs this season. At the end of the season, it's not out of the question that all parties will meet and decide a move is best. For Barcelona, however, peace for the next month is required. In the stands, the big games left will not be played at the Camp Nou and that might also be best for both parties.