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Philippe Coutinho, Ousmane Dembele Can Play Together, Says Ernesto Valverde

Tom Sunderland@@TomSunderland_Featured ColumnistDecember 16, 2018

VIGO, SPAIN - APRIL 17:  Ousmane Dembele and Philippe Coutinho of FC Barcelona celebrate the first goal during the La Liga match between Celta de Vigo and Barcelona at Balaidos Stadium on April 17, 2018 in Vigo, Spain.  (Photo by Quality Sport Images/Getty Images)
Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

Barcelona manager Ernesto Valverde says wingers Ousmane Dembele and Philippe Coutinho can play in the same team despite speculation the tactician is reluctant to do so.

The competition for a place on Barca's wings has heated up in recent weeks, but Valverde told reporters both players can feature in the same XI in the build-up to Sunday's meeting with Levante

"They can play together as they have already done this season.

"I know these are inevitable questions but we know that we have the chance to use both.

"I've always considered [Dembele as one of the most dangerous], but we also have Coutinho and a few more.

"We want the best from them."

The Blaugrana boss was very complimentary of both players in the same news conference, and the competition is particularly intense considering both players are versatile across the attacking line, via Goal:

Goal @goal

Ernesto Valverde says Philippe Coutinho and Ousmane Dembele are among the most decisive players in the world 🌎 But can he play them both in the same lineup?? 🤔 https://t.co/l76ndqsmr2

Dembele has started four games in Europe this season, with Coutinho also named in each of those lineups. They've only made the same starting XI in the league on five occasions this term.

Coutinho has failed to record a goal or an assist in his last three league appearances and was briefly out of the team due to injury in mid-November. It just so happened to be around then that Dembele began to pick up his performances.

After his own lull without much impact, he then scored in a narrow 3-2 win at Rayo Vallecano, grabbed a late equaliser in a 1-1 draw at Atletico Madrid, as well as netting and assisting in the 4-0 derby rout of Espanyol.

OptaJose illustrated the balance Dembele also boasts between his goal and assist contribution:

OptaJose @OptaJose

9 - Ousmane @Dembouz has been involved in nine goals in his last nine appearances for @FCBarcelona in all competitions (four goals and five assists). Productive. https://t.co/wdvjSJ7UF9

Coutinho started the season in attacking midfield, but Arthur has since settled in centrally and left his Brazilian countryman to fight for the remaining berth up for grabs out wide.

He and Dembele both started in Tuesday's 1-1 UEFA Champions League draw against Tottenham Hotspur, although as part of a second-string lineup, with Barca's place as group winners already assured.

Sportswriter Daniel Storey highlighted the substantial cost it took to bring the pair to the Camp Nou:

Daniel Storey @danielstorey85

Barcelona have rested most of their team and yet still start two players (Dembele and Coutinho) who cost almost double the amount of Tottenham's entire XI.

It's possible that cost means there are certain pressures to play the pair and make a success of their stay at the Camp Nou, although Valverde remains calm over the situation.

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