Barca need Coutinho at his best – Pique defends struggling star

The former Liverpool man once again toiled and was substituted for Ivan Rakitic as the Catalans battled to a 3-1 victory over Rayo

Philippe Coutinho’s huge transfer fee is complicating his life at Barcelona, according to Gerard Pique.

Brazil international Coutinho made way for Ivan Rakitic 10 minutes from time to a mixed reaction in Saturday’s 3-1 win over Rayo Vallecano at Camp Nou, with the Croatia midfielder going on to set up Luis Suarez’s game-sealing third.

Coutinho has endured patchy fortunes at Barca since his €160million switch from Liverpool last season and might well be pressed into action again in next week’s Champions League last-16 showdown with Lyon after Ousmane Dembele reportedly suffered a hamstring problem.

“Philippe is having a good season,” Pique told reporters after cancelling out Raul de Tomas’ opener for Rayo.

“Obviously his cost was very high, so that means there are more expectations of his performance level.

“It is what it is. We have to accept the reaction of the fans because they are our followers but from the inside we have to give him our support.

“We need him at his best for the end of the season and I’m sure he will be.”

Following Atletico Madrid’s 1-0 win over Leganes, Barcelona were facing having their lead at the top of La Liga trimmed to four points before Pique sparked a turnaround, with Lionel Messi’s penalty putting Barca in front for the first time early in the second half.

“We can’t discard anyone until they are mathematically out of it,” he said

“The other teams can hurt you. It good that we have the gap with Atletico.”

Pique added: “I feel very well I’m very comfortable and very calm as well.

“The team helps and it’s good if you suffer less.”

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