Lionel Messi Admits One Regret About Barcelona's January Signing of Philippe Coutinho

Tricia Pearson
January 29, 2018

Lionel Messi scored what proved to be a victor as Barcelona hammered Espanyol 2-0 to reach the semifinals of Copa del Rey on Thursday in a game that saw Philippe Coutinho make his long-awaited Barcelona debut.

A thigh injury had delayed Coutinho's Barcelona debut but he showed no signs of the problem on Thursday.

Barca needed only eight minutes to get level on aggregate, surprise starter Vidal sent clear by Messi to provide a flawless cross for Suarez to head home at the back post, the striker's eighth goal in his last six appearances against Espanyol.

The draw for the semi finals takes place on Friday.

And while the Brazilian playmaker failed to get on the scoresheet in his cameo appearance at the Camp Nou, he set up a couple of chances for his new teammates, one of which prompted an apologetic promise from Luis Suarez to be more clinical in front of goal. Messi scored the goal that secured a 2-1 win on aggregate midway through the first half with a shot that deflected off a defender.

Messi and Suarez have combined to score at least a goal each in six of Barca's past seven matches.

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The club are primed to win La Liga, now sitting 11 points clear of second-placed Atletico Madrid having won 17 of their first 20 league games.

Lionel Messi missed a penalty in the first leg as Barcelona were defeated for the first time since August, but they did more than enough on Thursday to play Sevilla in the upcoming semi-finals.

Before the match, the club said farewell to Javier Mascherano, whose impending move to anywhere-but-Barca paved the way for Coutinho to sit on the bench in his No. 14 jersey. "He will fit well into our game".

"For us, the support is fundamental", he said.

"We feel like we played a great tie".

On the other hand, the Blaugrana have denied any illegal approach or agreement between the club and the player, though that would hardly be surprising, considering how often transfers are kept shady and secretive.

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