Philippe Coutinho is close to recovering from a minor thigh injury and could make his Barcelona debut against Espanyol in the second leg of the Copa del Rey quarter-final this week, coach Ernesto Valverde has said.

Coutinho, 25, trained with his Barcelona teammates for the first time on Saturday, 20 January, after joining from Liverpool in a £142m ($197m) deal earlier this month.

Valverde said he did not want to risk aggravating the Brazilian midfielder's injury but added that it is "possible" that he could be included in the matchday squad for the Espanyol clash.

Barcelona are trailing 1-0 in the Copa del Rey last-eight tie after Oscar Melendo's late goal at the Cornella-El Prat last week.

"I'm reluctant to put an exact date on a start for Coutinho, but the progress of the injury is very positive," Valverde was quoted as saying by Sky Sports.

"He had a small muscular problem in his quadriceps, which is a particularly sensitive zone when striking the ball with power, but I hope he's soon with us.

"Thursday is possible and I hope that today he can train with the rest of the squad."

Valverde also revealed that he had given Rafinha his blessing to join Inter Milan on loan until the end of the season. The midfielder returned to action against Espanyol last week after a lengthy spell on the sidelines with a knee injury.

Philippe Coutinho
Brazil midfielder Philippe Coutinho became Barcelona's record signing earlier this month Getty Images

The Brazilian player is set to undergo a medical in Italy on Monday, 22 January, with an ESPN report saying that Inter will have the option to sign Rafinha on a permanent basis in the summer for €35m.

"I spoke to him, he has been injured for a long time, and with the season underway and further signings, it would be difficult for him to play," Valverde was reported as saying by Marca.

"He has given 100% to the group and, the other day, he played because I thought he would do well."