Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde has said it is a huge boost to have Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez back together again and hopes the pair can reignite their deadly partnership as soon as possible.
Barca play at home to Sevilla on Sunday in La Liga, when they could register a fourth consecutive victory after league wins over Villarreal and Getafe before their Champions League success against Inter Milan on Wednesday.
Suarez scored twice against Inter, including a late winner set up by Messi, who was making only his second start of the season at the Camp Nou following calf and thigh injuries. Suarez also suffered a calf injury in August.
Together, the pair scored 76 goals for Barcelona last season.
“It is clear they have both now recovered,” Valverde said in a press conference on Saturday.
“They are crucial for us, they have some catching up to do because of their injuries but they have to find their connection again. This is an important match.”
Antoine Griezmann started alongside Messi and Suarez in a front three against Inter but the Frenchman was quiet and his place could come under threat.
Ousmane Dembele is fit again after shaking off a hamstring strain while Ansu Fati is close to recovering from a knee problem and could be an option against Sevilla. The 21-year-old Carles Perez has also impressed.
“Every game is different, it can be one player for one game, another for another,” Valverde said.
“We will see who plays. We have Griezmann and Dembele and we also have another possibility, which is Carles Perez.”
On Fati’s fitness, Valverde said: “I am feeling optimistic, we will assess today whether he is ready or not. He is young, he still needs to mature physically and get used to the demands at this level.
“When a youngster like this comes through, everyone wants them to be thrown in the deep end all the time, but we forget he is only 16 years old.”
Jordi Alba has been out for almost three weeks with a thigh injury but trained too on Saturday and could return.
Sevilla have made a decent start to the season under their new coach Julen Lopetegui. Like Barcelona, they have 13 points after seven games played, five points behind frontrunners Real Madrid.
“Games against Sevilla are always intense,” Valverde said.
Lionel Messi put Barcelona to within touching distance of the Champions League final on Wednesday after firing a stunning brace to down Liverpool 3-0 at the Camp Nou.
Former Liverpool striker Luis Suarez opened the scoring midway through the opening half of the semi-final first leg before Messi struck twice in seven second-half minutes to leave the Reds with a mountain to climb in the tie despite an impressive performance in Catalonia.
Messi’s second, an incredible long-range free-kick, was his 600th Barca goal in all competitions.
The two sides meet again on Tuesday for the decisive second leg at Anfield.
Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi scored twice in two minutes as Barcelona broke the resistance of 10-man Atletico Madrid on Saturday to go 11 points clear of their La Liga title rivals.
Diego Costa was sent off in the 28th minute at Camp Nou after insulting referee Gil Manzano but while Atletico held on for almost another hour, Suarez and Messi struck late to seal a pivotal 2-0 win.
The victory leaves Barca almost out of sight with seven games left to play and maintains momentum ahead of Wednesday’s trip to Manchester United in the first leg of the Champions League quarter-finals.
“It is three crucial points,” coach Ernesto Valverde said. “We are a little closer.”
“It gives us a big margin,” said Suarez. “We’ve taken not just one, but two steps forward.”
United coach Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was in the crowd along with his assistant Mike Phelan but this was a familiar story of Barcelona’s deadly duo delivering when it mattered most.
Costa’s early and needless dismissal left Atletico needing snookers just to avoid defeat, let alone pull off the win that their coach Diego Simeone had said last week was the only result to keep their challenge alive.
“I asked the referee and he told me Costa said something to him,” Simeone said. “Other players have said things and not been sent off but that does not justify what Costa did.”
Suarez intervened with a superb long-range strike in the 85th minute, before Messi added a second in the 86th. The pair have now scored 53 league goals between them this season while for Messi, this was a record 335th La Liga victory.
Only a monumental collapse could now bring Atletico back into contention and more likely is Barca have earned themselves the luxury of resting players, around an even greater focus on success in Europe.
Antoine Griezmann, who decided against joining Barcelona last summer, was whistled as his name was read out before kick-off and he struggled for chances in what quickly became, after Costa departed, a contest of attack against defence.
Atletico seemed to be finding their way into the game when Manzano showed a red card to the Spaniard, who had pursued the referee and seemingly insulted him after a tangle with Philippe Coutinho.
A fuming Costa was escorted away by Gerard Pique and Barca took control. Jordi Alba had already hit the post after defence-splitting pass by Messi and Coutinho should have scored after a brilliant backheel by Suarez.
Messi came alive at the start of the second half as one shot was saved by the excellent Jan Oblak and another mesmeric run ended with a feathered pass to Suarez but again Oblak saved, this time with his foot.
Finally, the resistance of Atletico and their goalkeeper was broken as Barca scored twice in two minutes. The first was a peach as Suarez lined up a shot from 25 yards and whipped it past the left hand of Oblak into the bottom corner.
The second was a display of Messi magic, his weaving run from the right leaving both Jose Gimenez and Diego Godin on their backs. A tucked finish found its way in to finish off the game and, probably, Atletico too.
Lionel Messi has overcome a groin injury while strike partner Luis Suarez has sufficiently recovered from a sprained ankle to play in this weekend’s derby against Espanyol, Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde said on Friday.
Messi and Suarez were included in the squad of 18 ahead of Saturday’s La Liga game at the Camp Nou.
Ousmane Dembele is still absent, suffering from a thigh problem.
In his press conference, Valverde was cautious about Messi, who was forced to leave the Argentina squad last Sunday because of chronic groin pain.
Asked if his captain was 100 per cent, Valverde said: “We think he is, but, hey, Leo has been carrying this problem for some time and we have been working to allow him to recover.”
“It flared up with his national team. He’s had a rest and he is better. We’ll be careful with Messi because of the fundamental importance of the matches.”
Suarez missed Uruguay’s recent games after twisting his ankle but Valverde said “the rest did him good.”
Valverde said he could not give a date for Dembele’s return. The Catalans visit Manchester United on April 10 for the first leg of a Champions League quarterfinal.
Before then, Barca have three Spanish league games in eight days.
They go into Saturday’s fixture 10 points ahead of second-place Atletico Madrid. On Tuesday, Valverde’s men travel down the Mediterranean coast to face Villarreal and then entertain Atletico next weekend.
“We have in mind that it is a derby, which is motivating for us and for them,” Valverde said.
“This week we have three League games and three difficult games. When you play for nine points in a week, at this stage of the season, it can be decisive.
Luis Suarez suffered a “bad sprain” to his right ankle during Barcelona’s win over Real Betis on Sunday, coach Ernesto Valverde confirmed.
Suarez was taken off for Philippe Coutinho in the 89th minute of the 4-1 victory, in which he scored one goal and set up the second of a Lionel Messi hat-trick.
“He has a bad sprain,” Valverde said afterward. “We’ll see what the doctors say but this is the feeling we have.”
Suarez looks unlikely now to feature over the international break, with Uruguay playing Uzbekistan in the China Cup on Friday.
He will hope to recover in time for Barca’s La Liga clash against Atletico Madrid on April 6 and has just under four weeks to be ready for the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final against Manchester United.
Luis Suarez will be chasing redemption on Friday when Uruguay face Egypt in his first World Cup appearance since being thrown out of the tournament in 2014 for biting Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini.
The controversial Barcelona striker, 31, was described on the eve of their first game in Russia as “more mature” by Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez.
The next few days and weeks will be the time to prove it because Suarez will be past his prime or even retired by the time the next World Cup comes around, in Qatar in 2022.
The livewire forward’s history with the World Cup is a chequered one.
In 2010 — before he became the global star that he is today — Suarez was sent off in extra-time in the quarter-finals for stopping a certain goal with his hand and Uruguay went on to beat Ghana on penalties.
He was branded a cheat in much of the world but was a hero in Uruguay.
Then four years ago in Brazil, Suarez tried to take a lump out of Chiellini and was subsequently banned for several months — it was the third time during his career that he had bitten an opponent.
But from pantomime villain castigated the world over (except in Uruguay), Suarez has mostly recovered his reputation.
He left Liverpool for Barcelona in 2014 for 81.7 million euros and has been a regular scorer at the Camp Nou, hitting 152 goals in 198 games for the Spanish champions and chalking up half as many assists.
Suarez, who appears to have a better temperament as he ages, has been similarly prolific for Uruguay and forms along with Paris Saint Germain’s Edinson Cavani one of the most potent attacking duos at the World Cup.
The pair will be licking their lips at the prospect of getting stuck into the defence of a Saudi Arabian team thrashed 5-0 by hosts Russia in the World Cup opener on Thursday.
But first it is Mohamed Salah’s Egypt on Friday and Uruguay boss Tabarez is expecting Suarez to show he has changed for the better since the disgrace of 2014.
“Luis Suarez is no doubt more mature now and he has matured a great deal,” said Tabarez, the 71-year-old veteran who leads an Uruguayan side tipped as possible finalists by some.
“What happened in Brazil is part of real life and of course a lesson to achieve more maturity not only as a footballer but also in other parts of his life, such as his family.”
If Suarez and Co. beat Egypt in front of Yekaterinburg Arena’s curious two temporary stands they will finally banish Uruguay’s unwanted recent record — they have not won their opening game at a World Cup since 1970.
“We think we are cursed, we are cursed,” said Tabarez, who insisted that he hopes Egyptian talisman Salah will be fit after three weeks out injured with a shoulder problem.
Uruguay face the Saudis next Wednesday and Russia on June 25 in their final Group A game.
From Luis Suarez’s teeth to Roy Keane storming out on the Republic of Ireland and Toni Schumacher pole-axing Patrick Battiston in ’82, AFP Sport selects a team of 11 bad boys in World Cup history:
Toni Schumacher (West Germany)
Battiston lost two teeth, cracked three ribs and was left unconscious after Schumacher’s hip smashed into his face in the semi-final of the 1982 tournament in Spain.
The German, who to this day insists he was going for the ball and is still an unpopular name in France, escaped a booking and showed no remorse as West Germany won the match 5-4 on penalties, as it had finished 3-3 after extra-time.
Khalid Boulahrouz (Netherlands)
A record four red and 16 yellow cards were shown during ‘the Battle of Nuremberg’ when Portugal beat the Netherlands 1-0 in the Round of 16 at the 2006 World Cup.
Boulahrouz was booked for a studs-up tackle on Cristiano Ronaldo, which forced the Portugal superstar off, and was sent off for a second yellow in the second half.
Amidst the carnage, Giovanni van Bronckhorst, plus Portugal’s Deco and Costinha all received double yellow cards while Luis Figo was booked for head-butting Marc van Bommel.
Nigel De Jong (Netherlands)
De Jong’s flying kick landed on Xabi Alonso’s chest in the 2010 World Cup final, dubbed the ‘Battle of Johannesburg’, earned the Dutchman a yellow card and warning from English ref Howard Webb in another bad-tempered display by the ‘Oranje’.
The kung-fu kick set the tone for a brutal final as the Dutch earned nine yellow cards, including a pair shown to John Heitinga, who was sent off in extra time.
The Spanish, themselves no angels with five yellow cards, took the trophy when Andres Iniesta slammed home the extra-time winner.
Zinedine Zidane (France), Marco Materazzi (Italy)
The key moment of the 2006 World Cup final came in extra time when Zidane’s sudden headbutt floored Materazzi.
Zidane was apparently retaliating for a verbal provocation. But reports differ as to what Materazzi actually said that triggered the attack and saw the French legend sent off on 110 minutes in his last international appearance.
Italy won the final 5-3 on penalties after the match finished 1-1 as Zidane’s seventh-minute penalty was cancelled out by Materazzi’s first-half header.
David Beckham (England)
Beckham was sent off for a petulant kick aimed at Argentina captain Diego Simeone, who had just clattered England’s midfield ace, early in the second-half of the quarter-final defeat in the 1998 finals.
It finished 2-2 after extra time before England lost 4-3 on penalties, but for Beckham, the ordeal was just beginning.
The Manchester United star bore the brunt of a national outcry on his return to England and “God Forgives Even David Beckham” appeared on a poster outside a church in Nottingham, appealing for clemency on his behalf.
Slaven Bilic (Croatia)
Hosts France were 2-1 up against Croatia in the semi-final of the 1998 tournament, when Bilic theatrically went down clutching his head after a scuffle with Laurent Blanc in the area.
The Frenchman was sent off, for the first time in his career, but the replays showed Blanc had barely touched Bilic.
‘Les Bleus’ held on with 10 men to win, but despite clear evidence, FIFA refused to lift Blanc’s suspension for the World Cup final in Paris which France won 3-0 against Brazil.
Roy Keane (Republic of Ireland)
Issues with the equipment and pitch at Ireland’s pre-World Cup training camp in Saipan saw the tough-tackling Manchester United boil over with rage as Keane stormed out on the Irish before the 2002 finals even started.
A foul-mouthed tirade at the Republic’s manager Mick McCarthy was his parting shot as Keane-less Ireland went onto to lose to Spain in the last 16.
Diego Maradona (Argentina)
The midfield maestro made World Cup folklore with his ‘Hand of God’ goal against England in the last eight of the 1986 finals, then moments later beat five defenders on a mazy run for his second as Argentina went onto win the title.
However, Maradona finished his World Cup career in disgrace after failing a drugs test in the 1994 finals held in the USA.
His primal scream into the television cameras, eyes bulging, after scoring against Greece was repeatedly shown after it was discovered he had taken a stimulant.
Luis Suarez (Uruguay)
Sent off for a deliberate handball in Uruguay’s quarter-final win over Ghana in South Africa 2010, Suarez was banned for four months for biting Italy defender Giorgio Chiellini on the shoulder four years later in Brazil.
With the Italians protesting to the referee for not penalising Suarez, Uruguay won a corner and scored to eliminate Italy with a 1-0 victory in the group stages.
Suarez did not escape punishment, however, and FIFA’s Disciplinary Committee handed him a nine-match ban, two days after the match, ruling him out for the rest of the tournament and the 2-0 defeat to Colombia in the Round of 16.
Jurgen Klinsmann (West Germany)
Klinsmann had earned his reputation for diving, but his most outrageous tumble came in the final of Italy 1990 when he threw himself over Pedro Monzon’s tackle and convulsed on the floor, earning the Argentinian a straight red card on 65 minutes.
Replays showed it was a blatant dive and playing against 10 men, the Germans won the final in Rome when Andreas Brehme converted a penalty five minutes from time.
Luis Suarez could face Barcelona teammate Lionel Messi in a crucial World Cup qualifier between Uruguay and Argentina on Thursday (2300GMT) after Barca’s medical team cleared the striker to return from a knee injury.
“The Barca striker has successfully completed the process of recovering his right knee injury under the supervision and coordination of the medical services of the club and the Uruguayan Football Association,” Barcelona said in a statement.
Suarez was originally expected to be sidelined for a month when he injured his right knee cap as Barca were soundly beaten 2-0 by Real Madrid in the second leg of the Spanish Super Cup just two weeks ago.
Uruguay host Argentina in Montevideo with both sides still fighting to secure their place in Russia next year.
Only the top four in the 10-team South American round robin qualify directly with fifth place earning a two-legged playoff against the winners of the Oceania region.
Uruguay sit third, just one point ahead of Argentina in fifth, and also travel to Paraguay on Tuesday.
Five-time world champions Brazil are the only South American side to have so far guaranteed their place in next year’s showpiece.
Lionel Messi’s girlfriend, Antonella Roccuzzo, along with Luis Suarez’ wife, Sofia Balbi, opened their own shoes and accessories store on Wednesday in one of the most prestigious commercial avenues of Barcelona.
The new store is a franchise of the Argentine designer Ricky Sarkany who is recognized for his elegant and daring designs for women’s shoes and accessories.
Several Barcelona players and friends of Messi and Luis Suarez, arrived at the store, with the opening coinciding with Real Madrid’s 4-1 away win at Celta Vigo that puts their rivals in pole position for the La Liga title.