Barcelona Vs Alaves: 3 players who will decide the game for La Blaugrana
Barcelona kicks off their LaLiga title defense with a home clash against Alaves on Saturday night. The Basque club almost caused a major upset in this fixture last season, leading the Catalans by a goal for most of the match before Coutinho and Messi secured a 2-1 victory at the Nou Camp.
Barca manager, Ernesto Valverde will not take this game lightly and is expected to name a very strong lineup for his team's season opener. The Spaniard is acutely aware of how important a fast start is this campaign with both Madrid sides desperate to launch an assault for the title and bring the LaLiga trophy back to the Spanish capital.
Of course, Barcelona will enter this clash as overwhelming favourites and with the likes of Messi, Suarez, Rakatic, and Coutinho expected to start, there are a host of match-winners in the starting XI. We may also see a debut for the new boy, Artur, who hugely impressed during Barca's 2-1 victory over Sevilla in the Spanish Super Cup.
Three other new signings have been named in the matchday squad including Malcom, Arturo Vidal, and Clement Lenglet. It will be interesting to see if these players are named in the starting XI or whether they can have an impact off the bench.
Below, we look at three Barcelona players who will decide the season opener against Alaves at the Nou Camp.
#1 Phillipe Coutinho
The club's record signing enjoyed an excellent few months at the Nou Camp after his transfer in January of this year. Playing 18 times for Barcelona last season, the Brazilian netted eight goals and instantly formed a rapport with Messi to create a frightening partnership.
This will be the 26-year-old's first full season in Barcelona colours and he will hope to kick on from an impressive first few months. The attacking midfielder came on as a substitute during Barcelona's 2-1 Spanish Super Cup victory over Sevilla, but will likely start against Alaves on Saturday night.
His ability to score from anywhere around the edge of the box and beyond will surely cause panic in the Alaves defense who will need to decide whether to step up and close the space where Coutinho likes to shoot or sit deep and stop the runs of Messi behind the lines.
Coutinho has the ability to single-handedly win a match on any given day and could play a big role in the final result at the Nou Camp.