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Valverde defends decision to drop Coutinho as Barca equal club record

Andres Iniesta started ahead of the Brazil international for the Catalan side’s 2-0 victory over Eibar.

BARCELONA HEAD COACH Ernesto Valverde said Philippe Coutinho was benched for the good of the team in last night’s victory at Eibar.

Despite being ineligible for Tuesday’s Champions League showdown with Chelsea following his arrival from fellow last-16 participants Liverpool, Coutinho was dropped for Barca’s 2-0 win.

Coutinho – a €160 million signing last month – started the goalless draw against Getafe last weekend but made way for Andres Iniesta as goals from Luis Suarez and Jordi Alba saw Barca equal a club record of 31 games unbeaten in La Liga.

Explaining his decision to drop Coutinho — who was introduced as a 63rd-minute substitute — Valverde told reporters: “I think it was best for my team to try to win. Last week Coutinho started, Iniesta didn’t, so this week Iniesta started.

“It’s true that on Tuesday we have another match but for me the most important thing was this match. On Tuesday, let’s see, I know Coutinho cannot play, but we will do something.”

After ending a run of back-to-back draws, Barca moved 10 points clear of second-placed Atletico Madrid, who host Athletic Bilbao today.

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