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Coutinho lauds ‘unpredictable’ Messi while admitting to Champions League nerves – football news

Philippe Coutinho has lauded the “unpredictable” ability of Barcelona talisman Lionel Messi following another memorable performance from the Argentine.

Champions League competition returned to Camp Nou on Tuesday, with PSV paying a visit to Catalunya.

The Eredivisie outfit were to find themselves on the receiving end of another Messi masterclass, with the five-time Ballon d’Or winner setting more individual records as he helped himself to a hat-trick in a 4-0 win.

Such exploits no longer come as a surprise, with the 31-year-old having starred for over a decade now, but Coutinho is among those who continue to be amazed by the mercurial talent of a modern-day icon.

The Brazilian midfielder told reporters in the wake of a stunning showing from Barca’s skipper: “Messi always shoots and scores goals, which is what is important – to score goals and win games.

“It’s amazing what he does. The truth is he is an unpredictable player, he always does new things.”

Coutinho also caught the eye again during a meeting with PSV, with the South American contributing a second assist of the 2018-19 campaign.

The 26-year-old was making his continental bow for Barca having been cup-tied in the competition last season following a January transfer from Liverpool.

Philippe Coutinho Barcelona Champions League 2018-19

He said of his pre-match nerves: “Making my Champions League debut was a unique feeling.

“I was very anxious before the game. Last year I couldn’t play in this competition and I hope that as time goes by I can improve and help the team.”

Coutinho has already seen his decision to move to Camp Nou justified by La Liga, Copa del Rey and Spanish Super Cup success, but he is determined to get his hands on even more silverware this term.

“I hope we can fight for all of the titles and lots of big things,” he added.

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“Everything has just begun but we have big objectives and hope to win important things. I hope to help the team every way I can.

“The fans and all the players really want to win. The match against PSV was special, like all games in the Champions League, and also because it was in front of our fans it was a fantastic feeling.”

Barca return to action on Sunday with a home date against Girona.

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Rakitic wants more from Barcelona hat-trick hero Messi – football news

Ivan Rakitic wants many more goals from Lionel Messi after the Barcelona captain scored a hat-trick in the club’s Champions League rout of PSV.

It was the Messi show at Camp Nou, where the superstar’s treble inspired a 4-0 victory over the Dutch visitors in their Group B opener on Tuesday.

Messi set the tone with a trademark free-kick as the five-time Ballon d’Or winner recorded the 48th hat-trick of his illustrious career and eighth in the Champions League – more than any other player in the competition’s history.

Talking about Messi afterwards, Barca team-mate Rakitic lauded the Argentina international, telling reporters: “That foot is impressive and he has scored another wonderful goal.

“I hope he doesn’t stop and that many more go in.”

Messi led the way for Barca – who ended the match with 10 men following Samuel Umtiti’s red card for a second bookable offence in the 79th minute.

After Messi broke the deadlock courtesy of a set-piece just past the half-hour mark, Ousmane Dembele doubled Barca’s lead 16 minutes from the end.

Messi then took centre stage following Umtiti’s dismissal, scoring twice inside the final 13 minutes.

“This game was tough for us at first, which is normal since this is the Champions League and it’s the first game,” Rakitic said.

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“They were very motivated and they have started their league season well. It was a game of good effort, but we can still improve. You can always improve and we look at the small details from every match. We know we’re not 100 per cent.”

La Liga holders Barca were stunned by Roma in the Champions League quarter-finals last season and Rakitic added: “It’s special and we know that recent years haven’t been the best.

“We must improve and have a lot of desire. But we also want to do everything possible in the league and in the Copa del Rey.”

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Coutinho can’t explain Messi and Barcelona’s Champions League struggles – football news

Philippe Coutinho said it was hard to explain why Lionel Messi and Barcelona had not won the Champions League more often in recent seasons.

Messi, 31, is a four-time winner of Europe’s premier club competition, but the last of those successes came in 2015.

Barca have been eliminated in the quarter-finals of the Champions League in the past three seasons.

While last season saw Barcelona dominate La Liga, the Champions League proved a different story as Roma fought back from a 4-1 first-leg deficit to stun the Catalan club and advance on away goals after a 3-0 victory in the return leg.

Coutinho, who had made a January switch to Barca, was unable to take part in the proceedings after being cap-tied to Liverpool earlier in the compeitition, a rule that has since been changed.

Asked why Barca, with one of the all-time greats in Messi in their side, had struggled for success in the competition in recent seasons, Coutinho said that was tough to explain.

“That’s difficult to say. Messi is the best player in the world, perhaps the best in history and it’s difficult to explain that,” the attacker said ahead of Barca’s clash against PSV on Tuesday.

“I guess there’s no explanation to that. Such as all of us he is aiming so much to win big things and the Champions League is one of them.”

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Coutinho will make his first appearance in the Champions League for Barcelona on Tuesday when the Catalan club hosts the Eredivisie champions in their Group B opener.

Group B also includes Premier League side Tottenham and Serie A giants, and Coutinho’s old club, Inter.

 

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Coutinho: I have to improve a lot to earn Iniesta comparisons – football news

Philippe Coutinho feels comparisons between himself and “genius” Andres Iniesta are not appropriate as he wants to be known for his own game.

Coutinho’s arrival from Liverpool in the January transfer window was widely accepted to place the Brazilian in pole position to be Iniesta’s heir.

The long-serving midfielder moved to Vissel Kobe at the end of the season and Coutinho has slotted in to take the former Spain international’s place.

But Coutinho, who like Iniesta has played in both attack and midfield, rejected suggestions he is following in the 34-year-old’s footsteps.

“Andres was a genius, comparisons between us are tough,” Coutinho told a news conference ahead of his Champions League bow for Barca against PSV on Tuesday. “I just want to be myself and win as much as I can here.

“I try to work hard regardless of my position and I work hard on every aspect of my game, I feel more of an attacking midfielder and I am comfortable on the left as this is where I’ve played the most.

“My goal is to improve at everything and if I want to be like Andres Iniesta I have to improve a lot.

“My first job is to make plays in the midfield, in the middle it’s more difficult as I have to hold on to the ball and help my team-mates.

“In attack I can contribute to more goals, but I will do whatever job the coach asks me to do.”

Coutinho could not play for Barcelona in the Champions League last term as he had already featured for Liverpool earlier in the competition.

Barca subsequently suffered a shock exit to Roma at the quarter-final stage, surrendering a 4-1 lead from the first leg as they were beaten 3-0 in Italy.

“It was tough for me personally and for us as a team because of the way we were eliminated, but this time we are determined,” Coutinho added.

“I wanted to help, but I could not. I was watching it on TV, it was very hard.

“Last year I couldn’t play and I’m looking forward to getting out there in the Champions League.

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“Barcelona fight for all the competitions but the Champions League is the biggest and we are going to go for it.

“We haven’t won it in a few years but we have the players and we are hungry to go out there and win it.

“We have to keep working hard and it all starts right now in the Champions League.”

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