‘I’m in the shape of my life’ – the secret to Willian’s success

The in-form Chelsea midfielder says he is in peak condition for the World Cup having drastically changed his diet ahead of Russia 2018

Willian says that this year the World Cup will see the best he has to offer.

The Chelsea midfielder has been one of the standout stars in England this season. 

And after playing a bit-part role for Brazil in 2014, he is now setting his sights on winning back his starting role for Brazil.

The story behind this Brazil squad | BGT Venues: Luzhniki Stadium | Tite’s tactical evolution

“I will do my best to get better than I was in 2014,” Willian told a press conference at Brazil’s training camp in Moscow on Wednesday. 

“You mature, you learn things. This time I have done specific work and I’ve changed all the food in my house to be in the best condition I can be.”

Brazil trained behind-closed-doors for the first time this week and Willian believes the private time away from the media was good for the team’s ongoing World Cup preparations.

“Every professional has their way of working. I prefer not to go back in time and talk about 2014,” he said.

“Of course, the family feel [in this squad] will be close to that of 2014, and it’s important to have everyone close to us, but it’s also important to have closed training at times so we be more focused on our work.”

Four years ago, former coach Luiz Felipe Scolari led the Selecao into an ultimately fateful home World Cup by reinstating the ‘family feel’ that led him to success in 2002.

Current coach Tite, too, has worked tirelessly to create a happier atmosphere than the one he inherited from previous coach Dunga, but retained a more serious work ethic among the players and staff. 

“Loyalty and honesty, those are important,” Willian replied when asked about his ongoing battle with Philippe Coutinho for a place in the first team. 

Willian Philippe Coutinho Brazil 21032018

“Throughout this period, Coutinho and I have always had this. “We’ve always got along very well. I cheered for him when he was a starter, and vice versa. It’s important to be loyal, Tite always cherishes that word.”

Both Willian and Coutinho are currently tipped to start against Russia on Friday as Tite is expected to once again move Coutinho from right-midfield to a central role – and Coutinho said he is ready to do whatever is asked of him.

“I don’t mind [where I play], I just make sure I am always prepared so that I take my opportunity and make sure I play well,” Coutinho said. 


Posted by Brasil Global Tour on Wednesday, March 21, 2018

The Barcelona man is likely to be asked to fill yet another role next week when his side clash with Germany in Berlin, when it is thought Tite will ask him to take up the injured Neymar’s preferred position wide left.

“Neymar is a great player, he is very important for us and we miss him, but we have to fill in for him,” Coutinho added. 

“This team has grown collectively and we have to keep doing what we’ve been doing tactically. I think it will be similar [to playing with him]. Someone will have to occupy his position and whoever that is will have the quality to meet expectations.”


Coutinho & Paulinho advised Arthur on €40m Barcelona move

Philippe Coutinho and Paulinho were influencing factors in Arthur’s impending move to Barcelona, the Gremio midfielder said.

La Liga leaders Barca this week confirmed they have agreed a purchase option for Arthur, which can be exercised in July and will cost €30 million plus €10m in add-ons. 

Such a move has long been touted with the 21-year-old having played a starring role in Gremio’s 2017 Copa Libertadores victory.

Arthur would further add to the Brazilian flavour in Barca’s impressive ranks, and it was two of his compatriots he sought out to ask about life at Camp Nou.

“I talked to Paulinho and Coutinho, the Brazilians there, I asked about the structure of the club, because I don’t know it personally. They praised it a lot,” he said.

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“I’m happy to be negotiating with a club as great as Barcelona, a dream club, but the focus is on Gremio. When I’m in Barcelona, I’ll start thinking about Barcelona.”

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Arthur added that a move to Barca is one that any player dreams of.

“I’m very happy, it’s a great club, one of the biggest in the world. Every player dreams someday to play there,” he said.

“I’m very happy with the negotiation, how it happened, without hurry, not wanting to take a step larger than we could. It was good for me and for Gremio.”


Coutinho adds to list of Barca players backing Neymar’s return

Philippe Coutinho said it would be “awesome” to have Neymar back at Barcelona amid speculation over a possible return to Camp Nou.

Neymar only left Barca for French giants Paris Saint-Germain in August last year – the Brazil star becoming the world’s most expensive player after his €222million release clause was activated.

However, the 26-year-old – who is recovering from a broken foot – has been linked with a sensational move to Spanish and European champions Real Madrid, while rumours of a return to Barca have now emerged.

Ivan Rakitic talked up the possibility of Neymar wearing the Barca jersey again following Saturday’s 2-0 win over Malaga and Coutinho has now backed his Barcelona team-mate’s comments.

“I am thinking as Rakitic does, I would like to have here the best players and Neymar is one of them,” said fellow Brazil international Coutinho, who arrived from Liverpool in January.

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“I am playing alongside him with Brazil and it’s a privilege. It would be awesome to have him back.”

Neymar, who suffered a cracked metatarsal in PSG’s 3-0 victory over Marseille last month , has scored 28 goals across all competitions this season.

While Barcelona’s stars want to see the 26-year-old back in the side, manager Ernesto Valverde says he does not know anything about reports that Neymar could return . 

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“I don’t know where that has come from,” Valverde told reporters on Friday. “Let’s not talk about hypothetical situations.”

Barca, meanwhile, are 11 points clear atop the La Liga table after 28 matches but are level at 1-1 heading into the second leg of their Champions League last-16 tie against Chelsea. 

The La Liga leaders welcome the Premier League champions to Camp Nou on Wednesday. 


Dazzling Dembele draws Coutinho praise after shining in Messi’s absence

Philippe Coutinho credited Ousmane Dembele for helping to fill the void left by Lionel Messi as Barcelona cruised to a 2-0 win over 10-man Malaga in LaLiga.

Messi missed the game following the birth of his third son and first-half goals from Luis Suarez and Coutinho saw Ernesto Valverde’s men take control of the contest before Malaga winger Samu was sent off for a dreadful lunge on Jordi Alba.

Coutinho produced a wonderfully inventive backheel finish from Dembele’s 28th-minute pass and the France winger, whose first season in Spain has been ruined by injury, started to unfurl his full repertoire as the game went on.

“I’ve always said he’s a fantastic footballer,” the Brazil playmaker told television reporters. “He showed it again today, he played really well.

“Leo is the best in the world so you will always miss him when he’s not there but something fabulous has happened in his life with his third son.

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“We congratulate him and he will be there for his next game.”

Barca’s next outing is at home to Chelsea in midweek, with their Champions League last-16 tie all square at 1-1.

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Coutinho denied his team-mates took his foot off the gas at Malaga with an eye on facing the reigning Premier League champions.

“Absolutely not,” he replied. “We’re trained to have the mentality of game by game at this club.

“Clearly we could have passed it better and used more of our possession. Now that we’ve won we can think about the next game.”



Dembele comes of age for Barca in Messi absence

Ousmane Dembele needed a night like this. In what has been a spectacular season for Barcelona, particularly in La Liga, the €105 million summer signing had been something of a disappointment. But on Saturday, he came of age.

Barca came into this match unbeaten in 27 games in the Primera Division in 2017-18 and had not lost at all in the league since last April against Malaga at La Rosaleda – a defeat that seriously harmed their hopes of winning the title in Luis Enrique’s last season.

This time around, the trip to Malaga seemed somewhat less daunting, the Andalusians rooted to the bottom of the table ahead of this match and without a win in any of their previous 10 league games.

However, it was made more difficult by the fact that Lionel Messi pulled out of Barca’s squad earlier in the day to be present with his wife Antonela Roccuzzo at the birth of the pair’s third son, Ciro.

In his absence and that of Andres Iniesta through injury, coach Ernesto Valverde picked both January signing Philippe Coutinho and summer acquisition Dembele behind Luis Suarez in a formation which was something of a 4-3-2-1 – closer to Barca’s traditional 4-3-3 than the 4-4-2 the Catalans have been using all season.

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Barca did not seem to miss Messi much and Suarez opened the scoring with a fine header after a superb cross from Jordi Alba after 15 minutes. Dembele, meanwhile, grew in confidence as the game wore on.

The French forward featured in the Catalan Supercup against Espanyol on Wednesday night, but frustrated fans in the 0-0 draw – Barca later won on penalties – as he gave the ball away and saw some wayward attempts miss the target before being substituted after 63 minutes.

However, there were flashes of his skills and those were in full evidence on Saturday night as he beat defenders with pace and trickery, setting up Coutinho for the second goal in sumptuous style as he dragged the ball back and crossed for the Brazilian to finish with a clever back-heeled effort.

Malaga Barca score

He also came close to scoring himself with a spectacular volley against a home side down to 10 men from the 30th minute after the dismissal of Samuel Garcia, while he exhibited his quality in another move featuring his close control as he deftly flicked the ball over a Malaga defender and sent in a cross that was eventually cleared.

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Best of all, however, was his link-up play with the midfield and his fellow forwards. This was a much more mature performance from the 20-year-old and he showed some real promise in a campaign in which he has been blighted by two spells out through injury and some disappointing displays.

His beaming smile when he hugged Coutinho said it all and it was for such moments that Barca bought the winger from Borussia Dortmund for such a significant outlay in the first place. And Messi, watching with his growing family on television, will have been both impressed and delighted to see the youngster come of age.

On Wednesday, against Chelsea in the Champions League, the two of them could cause havoc together.


Malaga 0 Barcelona 2: Suarez and Coutinho cheer absent father Messi

Barcelona made light of Lionel Messi’s absence and continued their march towards LaLiga glory with a 2-0 victory over 10-man Malaga.

Typically, Messi was Barca’s match-winning hero when Ernesto Valverde’s side beat nearest rivals Atletico Madrid 1-0 last weekend, but sat this one out after his wife gave birth to the couple’s third child

Luis Suarez and Philippe Coutinho scored excellent goals with Messi missing inside the opening half hour and Barca’s lead at the summit – with Atleti to host Celta Vigo on Sunday – is now 11 points.

At 2-0 loss at La Rosaleda last April landed a damaging blow against Barcelona’s title defence last season, but this Malaga find themselves rooted hopelessly to the bottom of LaLiga.

Any prospect of an unlikely comeback for the hosts became even more remote when right winger Samu was deservedly sent for an atrocious 30th-minute lunge on Jordi Alba.

Youssef En-Nesyri and Maxime Lestienne missed chances as Malaga fought gamely, but, sitting as they do 11 point from safety, their relegation appears a similar formality to Barcelona wrapping up the title.

Suarez was frustrated by a brilliant save from Roberto in the 13th minute, a strong hand keeping a shot out of the bottom-left corner after Paulinho found the Uruguay international with a clever cushioned pass.

The Malaga goalkeeper had no chance two minutes later when Suarez darted between his two centre-backs to head home Jordi Alba’s superb raking cross from the left.

Paulinho was at the heart of many of Barca’s best moments early on and fired into the side-netting before another Brazilian wonderfully illuminated the contest.

Ousmane Dembele clipped a pass into Coutinho’s feet and the man who replaced the France winger as Barca’s record signing showed ingenuity to direct a perfect backheeled finish past Roberto.

Samu then allowed his frustrations to boil over in ugly fashion as he launched himself at Alba, who was fortunate to escape with nothing more than a limp and a torn right sock.

That left Malaga with a dauntingly uphill task and they could scarcely afford En-Nesyri wasting a glorious 36th-minute chance.

The shot-shy forward has two goals to his name all season and headed off target from inside the six-yard box after Manuel Iturra dug out a cross.

Coutinho forced another sharp stop from Roberto before the break and the Malaga number one continued to be busy in the second half.

Samuel Umtiti should have made him work harder when Dembele cleverly delayed a chipped cross to the far post in the 55th minute.

Dembele, frustrated by injury for much of his debut season in Spain, was starting to enjoy himself and saw Roberto hold impressively after Sergi Roberto neatly laid Ivan Rakitic’s searching pass into his path.

Coutinho was in a determined but fruitless pursuit for one of his long-range specials to find the net, while Lestienne hooked across goal at the other end.

The game was ambling towards its conclusion by that stage, although Suarez ensured he will sit out next weekend’s match against Athletic Bilbao by earning a booking for a clumsy 84th-minute shove on Ignasi Miquel.


Suarez completes La Liga clean sweep with goal against Malaga

Barcelona striker Luis Suarez has now scored against every opponent he has faced in La Liga.

Suarez broke the deadlock with a superb header after 15 minutes at Malaga on Saturday – a game Ernesto Valverde’s men led 2-0 at half-time, with their hosts reduced to 10 men by Samu’s red card.

The Uruguay striker has now netted versus each of the 25 Spanish top-flight sides has played against in Barcelona colours, helping him to a total of 106.

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Lionel Messi, absent from the game at La Rosaleda following the birth of his third child, has scored against 36 teams in LaLiga – more than any other player in history, with Real Madrid great Raul and Athletic Bilbao veteran Aritz Aduriz on 35.

Cristiano Ronaldo, meanwhile, has scored against 31 of 33 La Liga teams faced for Madrid.


Coutinho, Casemiro and Paulinho get boost in FIFA FUT 18 ratings refresh

EA Sports’ winter upgrades of FIFA 18 players began on February 23, with La Liga the latest division to get an overall ratings refresh.

Philippe Coutinho, Paulinho, Casemiro and Filipe Luis are among the players in the Spanish top flight to have seen their ratings improve after a strong first half of the season.

Barcelona invested £142 million on faith in Coutinho during the January transfer window, and the Brazilian’s efforts at Liverpool and during his early days at Camp Nou have seen his overall rating nudged up one point from 86 to 87. Domestic and international team-mate Paulinho also sees his score heading in the right direction, while Marc-Andre ter Stegen, Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba are other Barca stars to get a boost.

Casemiro’s ongoing emergence as one of the finest holding midfielders in world football sees him bumped from 85 to 86, with the Brazilian rewarded despite forming part of a largely forgettable campaign at Real Madrid.

Elsewhere, former West Ham flop Simone Zaza has seen his overall rating improve from 80 to 82 after starring for Valencia, while Iago Aspas has put his past struggles at Liverpool behind him to climb from 83 to 84 while on the books of Celta Vigo.

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Filipe Luis forms part of a strong contingent of boosted performers at Atletico Madrid, alongside the likes of Koke and Saul Niguez, while Geoffrey Kondogbia’s rejuvenation during a loan spell at Valencia means that he is also on the rise.

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Check out the full list below…

The full list of FIFA 18 La Liga upgrades

Philippe Coutinho – LW – FC Barcelona 86 ? 87
Sergio Busquets – CDM – FC Barcelona 86 ? 87
Jordi Alba – LB – FC Barcelona 85 ? 87
Marc-André ter Stegen – GK – FC Barcelona 85 ? 87
Casemiro – CDM – Real Madrid 85 ? 86
Filipe Luís – LB – Atlético Madrid 85 ? 86
Koke – CM – Atlético Madrid 84 ? 85
Iago Aspas – RW – RC Celta de Vigo 83 ? 84
Daniel Parejo – CM – Valencia CF 82 ? 84
Saúl – CM – Atlético Madrid 82 ? 83
Sergi Roberto – RB – FC Barcelona 81 ? 82
Paulinho – CM – FC Barcelona 81 ? 83
Daniel Wass – CM – RC Celta de Vigo 80 ? 81
Pau López – GK – RCD Espanyol 77 ? 81
Rodrigo – ST – Valencia CF 78 ? 80
Gerard Moreno – ST – RCD Espanyol 78 ? 80
Geoffrey Kondogbia – CDM – Valencia CF 76 ? 80
Joaquin – RM – Real Betis 78 ? 79
Gonçalo Guedes – LM – Valencia CF 74 ? 79
Gabriel Mercado – CB – Sevilla FC 76 ? 78
Álvaro Odriozola – RB – Real Sociedad 74 ? 78
Maximiliano Gómez – CM – RC Celta de Vigo 70 ? 77
Simone Zaza – ST – Valencia CF 80 ? 82
Jonathan Viera – CM – UD Las Palmas 82 ? 83
Rodri – CM – Villareal CF 70 ? 77
Kepa – GK – Athletic Club de Bilbao 79 ? 81
Šime Vrsaljko – RB – Atlético Madrid 79 ? 80
Cristian Tello – RM – Real Betis 77 ? 78
Andreas Pereira – LM – Valencia CF 77 ? 79
Thomas Partey – CDM – Atlético Madrid 77 ? 79
Cristhian Stuani – ST – Girona FC 76 ? 78
Lucas Hernández – CB – Atlético Madrid 76 ? 78
Carlos Soler – RM – Valencia CF 76 ? 78
Iago Herrerín – GK – Athletic Club de Bilbao 76 ? 78
Adrián Lopez – ST – RC Deportivo 75 ? 78
Portu – ST – Girona FC 75 ? 78
Mariano Barbosa – GK – Villareal CF 75 ? 77
Juanmi – ST – Real Sociedad 75 ? 77
Fabian Schär – CB – RC Deportivo 75 ? 77
José Ángel – LB – SD Eibar 74 ? 75
Jonathan Calleri – ST – UD Las Palmas 75 ? 77
Toño Garcia – LB – Levante UD 74 ? 75
Enis Bardhi – CAM – Levante UD 74 ?.75
Sergio Postigo – CB – Levante UD 74 ? 75
Pedro Alcalá – CB – Girona FC 74 ? 76
Mikel Rico – CB – Athletic Club de Bilbao 74 ? 76
Juanpe – CB – Girona FC 74 ? 76
Enes Ünal – ST – Villareal CF 74 ? 76
Iñigo Córdoba – LW – Athletic Club de Bilbao 70 ? 75
Pione Sisto – LW – RC Celta de Vigo 74 ? 77
Álex Granell – CM – Girona FC 73 ? 75
Joaquin Correa – LM – Sevilla FC 73 ? 76
Borja Garcia – CM – Girona FC 73 ? 77
Mario Hermoso – CB – RCD Espanyol 72 ? 75
Pere Pons – CM – Girona FC 72 ? 76
Yassine Bounou – GK – Girona FC 71 ? 75
Pablo Maffeo – RB – Girona FC 71 ? 75
Antonio Lato – LB – Valencia CF 70 ? 77
Álvaro Medrán – CM – Deportivo Alavés 74 ? 75
Juan José Narváez – CM – Real Betis 63 ? 68
Alejandro Mula – LM – Málaga CF 60 ? 73


‘Best in history’ Messi lauded by Barcelona colleagues Coutinho & Busquets

Philippe Coutinho and Sergio Busquets hailed the performance of the “amazing” Lionel Messi in Barcelona’s crushing 6-1 La Liga victory over Girona.

The Argentina international set up Luis Suarez for an equaliser after Girona had taken a third-minute lead, and netted twice himself, the second an inventive free-kick steered under the opposition’s defensive wall at Camp Nou.

Coutinho, a January arrival from Liverpool, also supplied an assist for Suarez before getting on the scoresheet, and the Brazilian is already revelling in a productive relationship with his superstar team-mates.

“Leo is amazing,” he told Movistar.

“He fooled everyone with his goal. It’s incredible how good he is. Each game we understand each other better, with him, with Suarez, he’s very important for us. 

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“Bit by bit I’m learning and I have a lot of work to do.”

Holding midfielder Busquets echoed the sentiments of Coutinho, saying of Messi’s contribution: “He always makes the difference and that’s what makes him the best player in the world and in the history of football.”

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Ousmane Dembele could not find the back of the net himself but did tee up Suarez for the Uruguayan to complete his hat-trick, and Coutinho expects the young France international to hit his stride soon. 

“Barcelona play unique football,” he said.

“Dembele is a great player, I’m sure that with time and work we will learn. We want to do the best we can.”


Coutinho & Dembele took step forward in Barcelona win, says Valverde

Barcelona boss Ernesto Valverde was proud to see Philippe Coutinho and Ousmane Dembele contribute to his side’s 6-1 win over Girona on Saturday and feels the pair are progressing well.

Valverde started Coutinho, Dembele, Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez together for the first time and he was buoyed by the efforts of this season’s two blockbusting signings.

Coutinho opened his La Liga account with an excellent long-range strike, while both he and Dembele set up Luis Suarez on his way to a hat-trick, with Lionel Messi netting twice.

And while Messi and Suarez took most plaudits for turning the result around after Girona’s early opening goal, Valverde feels things are coming together with Dembele and Coutinho.

“When a player scores as Coutinho did he gains more and more confidence, which is what a player is always looking for,” he told reporters.

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“They are players who have to help us and who are already doing it, each with their own characteristics.

“Dembele has a more extreme profile, he brings more depth [to Barcelona’s play] but he has had problems with injuries and skipped that period of adaptation. That’s why he’s still getting used to the team.

“Coutinho plays very well in the inside game. I think both have taken a step forward today.”

As well as his goal scoring heroics, Suarez’s actions towards the end of the game became the subject of debate.

Some observers alleged Suarez was trying to get a yellow card that would have resulted in a suspension for Thursday’s trip to Las Palmas, clearing his disciplinary slate for Atletico Madrid’s crunch visit to Camp Nou next weekend.

Referee Javier Alberola showed leniency with Suarez but Spain left-back Jordi Alba will miss the Las Palmas game after he was carded for bringing down Pablo Maffeo.

Asked about the events during the final minutes, Valverde said: “They are moments of the game and the referee decides.

“I have nothing to say about that. If we have a setback due to an accumulation of bookings, another player will play. We’ll decide what we do.”