Philippe Coutinho

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WATCH: Suarez to Coutinho, and it’s Barca into the Copa del Rey Final

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Liverpool supporters will be familiar with both ends of Barcelona’s Copa del Rey Final-berth clinching duo.

Philippe Coutinho slid to meet a Luis Suarez cross just after halftime of Barca’s 2-0 second leg semifinal win over Valencia, as the Blaugranas aim for their fourth-straight Cup.

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Ivan Rakitic scored Barca’s other goal, with the tie ending 3-0 on aggregate.

The goal is Coutinho’s first for Barcelona, coming in his fifth match with the club following a big money transfer from Liverpool.

Barca will face Sevilla in the April 21 final.

La Liga wrap: Messi free kick completes Barca comeback (video)

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The league leaders got some luck and some Leo to stretch its unbeaten league season to 21 matches in one of four Sunday matches in La Liga.

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Barcelona 2-1 Alaves

Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi dragged Barcelona back from Alaves’ unlikely upset bid with goals in the final 15 minutes as the hosts increased their La Liga lead to 11 points over second place Atletico Madrid on Sunday.

Former Man City product John Guidetti gave Alaves a lead after just 23 minutes of play, and Barca needed a couple breaks to get the win.

Suarez’s goal took a turn off a ducking Gerard Pique’s hand on its way into the goal, and Paco Alcacer appeared to be just offside before he was fouled to set Messi up for the below free kick.

Philippe Coutinho started the match for his first La Liga match since a 2011-12 loan stint at Espanyol, but departed with the deficit 1-0.

Atletico Madrid 3-0 Las Palmas

Antoine Griezmann ended a scoreless stalemate just after the hour mark, and Fernando Torres busted it wide open in the 73rd minute before Thomas finished the scoring 15 minutes later.

Diego Simeone’s men took advantage of Real Madrid’s blowout of Valencia, taking a six-point lead over third placed Los Che. City rivals Madrid are eight points back of Atleti with a match-in-hand.

Elsewhere
Leganes 3-2 Espanyol
Sevilla 1-1 Getafe

Coutinho debuts, Messi, Suarez score as Barcelona advances in Copa

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MADRID (AP) Goals from Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez guided Barcelona to a 2-0 victory over city rival Espanyol on Thursday and a place in the Copa del Rey semifinals.

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Barcelona had lost the first leg 1-0 last week, but quickly evened the series when Suarez headed home less than 10 minutes into the match at Camp Nou. Messi scored the goal that secured a 2-1 win on aggregate midway through the first half.

The match marked the debut of new Barcelona signing Philippe Coutinho, who came off the bench in the second half to replace Andres Iniesta.

Coutinho arrived from Liverpool at the beginning of the month but had been sidelined by a right leg muscle injury. The Brazilian playmaker was signed in a transfer worth up to 160 million euros (then $192 million), making him Barcelona’s most expensive player ever.

It’s the eighth straight season that Barcelona has made it to the Copa semifinals, having won the title for the last three years.


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Jupp Heynckes calls Aubameyang, Dembele behavior “unacceptable”

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Bayern Munich manager Jupp Heynckes has labeled Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s and Ousmane Dembele’s behavior at rival club Borussia Dortmund “unacceptable” and suggested such players would not be signed by Bayern Munich.

“It’s unacceptable how certain players act in professional football,” Heynckes said speaking to the media ahead of Bayern’s on Sunday against Werder Bremen. “It’s just not right. These situations have always happened, but now they have reached a whole new dimension.”

Aubameyang has not yet left Borussia Dortmund, but reports all over Europe suggest he is pressing the club to leave, with Arsenal linked, as well as a move to China. The Gabonese international has been suspended by the club for missing meetings and training, and reports say he has handed in a transfer request.

Dembele left for Barcelona back in the summer, and was similarly suspended for missing training in hopes of forcing a move. The 20-year-old later admitted that he intentionally missed training with the intent of pushing the club to sell him.

“The Dembele and Aubameyang situations have to be viewed in a critical light,” Heynckes added, also hitting out at former Liverpool playmaker Philippe Coutinho, who the Reds insist they did everything in their power to convince him to stay before he ultimately left for Barcelona. “I am very critical of this because players are very privileged. The Coutinho transfer was similar but solved more elegantly.”

The 72-year-old, in his fourth stint as Bayern Munich manager, said he would not sign these players if up to him, and suggested that Bayern Munich has a higher standard.

“Ethics and morals form part of our job and we have to look at the bigger picture and what’s happening in society. You have to consider how difficult it is for others to earn their monthly income. Clubs signing these players have to expect that this behavior will continue at their club. I don’t want to speak of solidarity, but it’s a team sport where you cannot afford to set your own individual targets. Clubs should think twice about signing these players. Honestly, I would reject it.”

Heynckes said that clubs shouldn’t take a hard stance with a player, instead hoping to placate them with a softer touch.

“Banishing the player to the stands is not the way,” Heynckes said. “You have to work at it, communicate and care for the player. You need a clear direction and I think we have that at Bayern Munich.”

How will Liverpool cope without Philippe Coutinho?

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With Philippe Coutinho in the sun in Barcelona and Liverpool $197 million richer, the world is looking on with intrigue as to how Jurgen Klopp handles the loss of his star Brazilian playmaker.

[ MORE: Klopp details Coutinho’s departure ]

What will he do when Liverpool host Manchester City (Watch live, 11 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) in the Premier League at Anfield this Sunday?

In the video above we take a look at his options, with the Reds having more than a few ready made replacements for Coutinho.

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As many reports suggest that the likes of Riyad Mahrez and Thomas Lemar are being lined up as replacements for Coutinho, should some of the current Liverpool squad be given the chance to step up between now and the end of the season?