Barcelona boss Ernesto Valverde has revealed that record signing Philippe Coutinho was dropped from his side's starting XI in their 2-0 win over Eibar on Saturday for the good of the team.
Despite being cup tied for Blaugrana's last-16 Champions League tie with Chelsea on Tuesday after already being involved in the competition with Liverpool, the Brazilian started this weekend's historic clash on the substitutes' bench, with Andres Iniesta the preferred option in midfield.
Coutinho vs Eibar— ⁹ (@Moratabllity) February 17, 2018
0 Shots on target
0 Key passes
67% Pass accuracy
2 Duels lost
Poor once again pic.twitter.com/3udHThtNlA
The 25-year-old had started from the outset during the Catalonians' goalless draw with Getafe last Sunday but was not called upon again until the 63rd minute during this weekend's win - one which saw Barca equal a club record of 31 games unbeaten in the Premier Division - after struggling to find a rhythm in his last outing.
Explaining his decision to drop Coutinho, Valverde told reporters, as quoted by Spanish news outlet AS: "I think it was best for my team to try to win.
"Last week Coutinho started, Iniesta didn't, so this week Iniesta started. It's true that on Tuesday we have another match but for me the most important thing was this match.
Barça against Chelsea since 2005 (all competitions):— Catalan Edition (@CataIanEdition) February 18, 2018
Conceded: 16 pic.twitter.com/FEGziu16vx
"On Tuesday, let's see, I know Coutinho cannot play, but we will do something."
Iniesta will likely be the chosen one again in midfield when Barcelona travel to Stamford Bridge on Tuesday evening, where Valverde's outfit will face a side in which they have only claimed victory over twice during their 11 encounters across all competitions since 2005, and a club Lionel Messi is yet to score against.