Arturo Vidal’s lionhearted performance was an essential factor in Barcelona’s hard-earned win over Rayo Vallecano, according to Ernesto Valverde.
The LaLiga leaders came from behind to prevail 3-1 at Camp Nou on Saturday thanks to goals from Gerard Pique, Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez.
Chile international Vidal, 31, started for the 19th time in all competitions since his switch from Bayern Munich in August and was typically energetic in helping Barca overturn Raul de Tomas’ 24th-minute opener.
The midfielder registered more touches and tackles than any other player on the pitch and earned warm praise from his head coach.
“He played a great game in many ways,” said Valverde.
“He has an incredible heart, he’s always close to the penalty area – his own and the opposition’s – and he has a very high recovery rate.
“Both he and [Sergio] Busquets kept us going at certain times.”
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) March 9, 2019
Philippe Coutinho endured a less successful outing and was withdrawn in the 80th minute to a mixed reception from the home fans.
The 26-year-old has not scored in LaLiga since October, but Valverde urged the Brazil star to continue believing in his abilities.
“Coutinho fought the whole game,” he said. “We always expect our players to take a rabbit out of the hat. Sometimes it comes out and sometimes it does not.
“You need to persevere to find those moves that give you confidence.”
The result preserved Barca’s seven-point lead over nearest chasers Atletico Madrid.
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