It isn’t quite happening yet for Luis Suarez. The Uruguay striker missed the best chance of the whole game and endured another frustrating evening in front of goal for Barcelona. And six months on from his expensive summer signing, he is still struggling to live up to his €81 million price tag.
Suarez sat out the early months of this season due to his ban for biting Italy’s Giorgio Chiellini at the World Cup and only made his Barca bow back in late October as he assisted Neymar for his side’s only goal in the 3-1 Clasico defeat at Real Madrid.
Since then, the former Liverpool forward has added eight more assists, but has just five goals so far for his new club in 16 games and only two in 11 appearances in La Liga.
Coach Luis Enrique picked the same side bar goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen, keeping faith with the outfield players who had beaten Atleti so convincingly in La Liga (3-1) 10 days ago and then thrashed Deportivo La Coruna last weekend.
Barca bristled with confidence in the opening exchanges and came close on several occasions, but found life more difficult as the game wore on.
“Every minute that passes will be crucial to our chances of getting thrrough the tie,” Diego Simeone had said in the lead-up to this match.
And Atleti had Suarez to thank at half-time for a glaring miss when he was teed up by Ivan Rakitic and sent the ball way over the bar with only Jan Oblak to beat nine minutes before the interval.
The Camp Nou crowd immediately got behind their man with chants of “Suarez, Suarez”, but the Uruguayan’s night did not improve in the second half when he was twice adjudged to have dived by the referee and failed to take up a single scoring position.
In the end, Lionel Messi’s missed penalty converted on the rebound proved the difference between the two teams and Suarez was all smiles as he celebrated with the Argentine, but Barca will be expecting much more from their expensive signing.
And so they should. For all his willingness and hard work, Suarez still seems unsure of his role in this team and when he has had chances, they have more often than not been squandered.
“He has the support and the affection of the fans,” Barca president Josep Maria Bartomeu told Canal Plus after the game. “He is a great player and we have great expectations for him.”
And Luis Enrique added: “We have maximum confidence in Suarez. He wasn’t lucky enough to score, but he caused their centre-backs problems and created danger. I’m certain he will score goals.”
That is of course the idea and with Barca back to winning ways in recent games, the pressure is now off slightly for the 27-year-old. However, the jury is still out on the Catalans’ €81m investment and in order to keep the fans and press on his side, the Uruguayan had better start scoring soon.