Ernesto Valverde provides his backing for Philippe Coutinho

Barcelona manager Ernesto Valverde has given his backing to midfielder Philippe Coutinho, who endured a difficult game against Girona in the Spanish La Liga. The Brazil international has struggled to secure a regular starting role under Valverde this term and he has done himself no favours after squandering a couple of golden chances to find the scoresheet.

The Blaugrana returned to winning ways with Nelson Semedo and Lionel Messi finding the net but the match could have been much more comfortable, had Coutinho converted his chances which included a one-on-one with the opposition keeper. Speaking after the game, Valverde was supportive of the former Liverpool man despite the average performance and suggested that he has been pleased by the Brazilian’s workrate throughout the game, he said: "What I like about him is that he always tries things and takes on his man. 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."

Meanwhile, “Valverde went further to praise the impact of Coutinho’s compatriot Arthur, who provided a sense of calm in the centre of the park“, he added: "We were having some difficulty because they were pressing high and we couldn't pass through it on occasions. 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."

With the victory, the Blaugrana have continued their dominance at the top of the league table and they are still holding a five-point gap over second-placed Atletico Madrid. The Catalan giants are now scheduled to switch their attention to the Copa del Rey quarter-final where they need to recover a 2-0 deficit from the first leg. Lionel Messi was among the high-profile players left out during the reverse fixture but he could return to salvage the club’s Cup hopes.