Barcelona playmaker Philippe Coutinho set for another chance to shine

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Philippe Coutinho is set to be handed another chance to impress when Barcelona face Valencia on Thursday.

The Brazilian playmaker made his full debut for Barca following his big-money switch from Liverpool in the 2-1 win over Alaves at the weekend.

Coutinho had previously come on as a 69th-minute substitute, replacing Andres Iniesta, during Barcelona’s Copa del Rey quarter-final against Espanyol, as they earned a 2-1 win on aggregate.

The 25-year-old will be eager for another slice of cup action when Barca host Valencia in the first leg of the semi-final on Thursday night.

Another former Anfield star, striker Luis Suarez, felt Coutinho should be pleased with his first full outing for the Spanish giants.

“It’s difficult to debut in the Camp Nou in the league,” he told Marca.

“Philippe did very well trying in the game and the team are happy with his contribution.”

Barca were this week boosted by the news Gerard Pique has signed a new contract.

The Spain international will be 35 when his new deal ends but his thirst for success remains undimmed.

“Every season we’ve won at least one title,” he told a press conference.

“That’s the best thing about my time here, the fact that we’ve always competed for trophies until the very end.

“I hope that it stays the same until I retire. ”

Barca hammered Valencia 7-0 in the semi-final first leg in 2016 before easing into the final 8-1 on aggregate.

However, Valencia have been revitalised by head coach Marcelino and should provide far stiffer competition this time around.

Valencia, who are third in LaLiga, reached the last four by edging past Alaves in a penalty shoot-out last Wednesday.

Nemanja Maksimovic and Nacho Vidal have still been included in Valencia’s squad despite being linked with possible moves away.

Marcelino has limited options due to injuries suffered by Ezequiel Garay, Geoffrey Kondogbia, Goncalo Guedes and Jeison Murillo.

Barca have won the last three Copa del Reys, and reached the last four finals, while Valencia have not made it to the final since lifting the trophy in 2008.

Leganes, who beat Real Madrid to reach the last four for the first time in their history, will face Sevilla in the other semi-final.

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