Valverde: Handball ‘involuntary’, Coutinho…

Ernesto Valverde felt Samuel Umtiti’s handball against Alaves was ‘involuntary’ but urged Barcelona not to expect too much too soon from Philippe Coutinho.

Alaves were left reeling after Umtiti’s late handball in their 2-1 defeat to Barca went unpunished, while Coutinho completed 66 minutes on his full debut for the Blaugrana.

“I didn’t see the controversial incidents,” the Coach said after the game.

“I know there’s been a lot of talk about Umtiti’s hand, but I didn’t see it on TV.

“Umtiti told me it was involuntary, so I guess he’s right. Coutinho’s debut? Players aren’t machines that start working as they’re supposed to right away, but I saw him play well.

“It’s another step forward for him. He played 20 minutes the other night and played a little more tonight. We’ll see if we integrate him little by little.

“We’re in a difficult part of the season, with midweek games, wear and tear. We play again on Thursday, when there’ll be another semi-final. It’s difficult to focus on every game.”