Suarez Scores As Atletico Madrid Win La Liga

Atletico Madrid's Uruguayan forward Luis Suarez celebrates after scoring during the Spanish league football match Real Valladolid FC against Club Atletico de Madrid at the Jose Zorilla stadium in Valladolid on May 22, 2021. CESAR MANSO / AFP
Atletico Madrid’s Uruguayan forward Luis Suarez celebrates after scoring during the Spanish league football match Real Valladolid FC against Club Atletico de Madrid at the Jose Zorilla stadium in Valladolid on May 22, 2021. CESAR MANSO / AFP

 

Atletico Madrid won La Liga and Luis Suarez found vindication, his goal securing the 2-1 victory over Real Valladolid on Saturday that clinched his team another remarkable Spanish title. 

Suarez began the season crying after being forced out of Barcelona but ended it with his 21st goal of the season earning Atletico a first league triumph since 2014, this one at the expense of Real Madrid.

Atletico knew victory would guarantee them the title regardless of what Real Madrid did at home to Villarreal but it was never comfortable, with Valladolid taking a shock early lead.

Real Madrid were behind too for most of the afternoon but Karim Benzema equalised in the 87th minute and Luka Modric even scored a late winner for 2-1 at Valdebebas, leaving Atletico hanging on at the end, as they were suddenly one goal away from squandering it all.

When the final whistle blew, the players ran onto the pitch, Suarez underneath a pile of red and white shirts, with Europe’s most nerve-wracking and unpredictable title race finally complete.

Just over a week ago, coach Diego Simeone said this was the “Suarez Zone” and so it proved, the Uruguayan scoring the winner against Osasuna last week to keep the title in Atletico’s hands and then again on the last day to put their name on the trophy.

This is only the second time in 17 years that a team other than Barcelona or Real Madrid have won the title, with Atleti claiming the other one under Simeone in 2014.

Atletico Madrid's Uruguayan forward Luis Suarez (C) celebrates after scoring during the Spanish league football match Real Valladolid FC against Club Atletico de Madrid at the Jose Zorilla stadium in Valladolid on May 22, 2021. CESAR MANSO / AFP
Atletico Madrid’s Uruguayan forward Luis Suarez (C) celebrates after scoring during the Spanish league football match Real Valladolid FC against Club Atletico de Madrid at the Jose Zorilla stadium in Valladolid on May 22, 2021. CESAR MANSO / AFP

 

Atletico went into the game having been top since December and on the back of beating Osasuna with two goals in the last eight minutes, a victory that was so dramatic it felt like it would prove decisive.

But Atletico have done nothing the easy way this season, with their 10-point lead in February cut to two in May and their position at the top of the table relying on numerous slip-ups from both Real Madrid and Barcelona.

So it was apt that faced with beating Real Valladolid, who were 19th in the table, they still had to scrape over the line.

Several hundred Atletico fans gathered in Valladolid’s Plaza Mayor in the hours before kick-off to sing songs and a similar number made it outside the stadium, where they were cordoned off in a cess-pit of nerves and anticipation.

Players screamed

Suarez had a couple of early openings but any hopes for a comfortable afternoon were dashed in the 18th minute when Valladolid took the lead.

It came from an Atletico corner as Yannick Carrasco lost the ball and Valladolid broke at speed, pinging passes through midfield and finally through to Oscar Plano, the former Real Madrid youngster who pulled away and fired past Jan Oblak.

There was plenty of time left and the other consolation for Atletico was Real Madrid fell behind too, Gerard Moreno’s poked pass causing confusion at the back, with Yeremi Pino prodding Villarreal into the lead.

Atletico pushed as Suarez’s effort curled wide and Felipe headed straight at Jordi Masip but they also looked for calm. Players screamed at Oblak to give the team a moment to regroup. Simeone told the substitutes to quieten down.

Atletico Madrid´s players toss Atletico Madrid's Argentine coach Diego Simeone after winning the Spanish league football match against Real Valladolid FC and the Liga Championship title at the Jose Zorilla stadium in Valladolid on May 22, 2021. CESAR MANSO / AFP
Atletico Madrid´s players toss Atletico Madrid’s Argentine coach Diego Simeone after winning the Spanish league football match against Real Valladolid FC and the Liga Championship title at the Jose Zorilla stadium in Valladolid on May 22, 2021. CESAR MANSO / AFP

 

Both title contenders were trailing at half-time but Atletico came out with renewed vigour and a crucial few minutes fell their way.

Real Madrid struck first, Benzema heading in Casemiro’s cross before Angel Correa levelled for Atletico as well, collecting on the edge of the area and firing through the legs of Jawad El Yamiq.

Atletico’s equaliser, though, was made all the more precious after Real Madrid’s was ruled out, Benzema’s left arm shown to be offside by VAR.

Valladolid might have scored again but Shon Weissman headed over with the goal gaping and then Atletico took the lead, a gift of a pass-back by Sergi Guardiola allowing Suarez to skip clear.

Suarez slid the ball past Masip before ending up under a pile of Atletico teammates.

Real Madrid equalised in the 87th minute, Benzema curving a delightful finish into the top corner and it was still not over, Modric scoring again to leave Atletico with some nail-biting final moments.

They got over the line.

‘Nothing Surprises Me Anymore,’ Says Messi Lamenting Suarez Departure

Barcelona’s Argentinian striker Lionel Messi (C) celebrates with teammates after scoring their third goal during the Champions League group B football match match between Tottenham Hotspur and Barcelona at Wembley Stadium in London, on October 3, 2018.
Ian KINGTON / IKIMAGES / AFP

 

Lionel Messi bid an emotional farewell on Friday to Luis Suarez, the day after the Uruguayan striker had said tearful goodbyes to Barcelona after the club sent him to Atletico Madrid.

“Today I went into the dressing room and the awful truth hit me,” Messi posted on Instagram, before renewing his criticism of club management.

“You deserved to be sent off as what you are: one of the most important players in the history of the club,” Messi wrote. “And not to be fired in the way they did it.”

“The truth is that at this point nothing surprises me anymore.”

Messi has a long-running feud with club president Josep Maria Bartomeu which intensified after Barcelona were humiliated 8-2 by Bayern in a Champions League quarter-final in August.

Messi tried to force his exit from Barcelona but finally accepted that he would have to see out the final year of his contract. Meanwhile, two of his closest friends on the team, Suarez and the Chilean Arturo Vidal have left.

The 33-year-old Suarez moves to Atletico on a two-year contract on a free transfer, although, if he does well, Barcelona could receive some money.

Suarez, who hit 198 goals for Barca, becoming the third highest goalscorer in the history of the club, cried as he bid an impromptu farewell to the club on Thursday.

“I’m going to keep playing, with fresh motivation, with the objective to show I can continue competing,” Suarez said.

“Everyone knows the relationship we have, Leo and me. I’ve already played against him in the Uruguay-Argentina matches, playing against each other is not going to change the feelings we have for each other,” Suarez said.

Messi and Suarez were neighbours in the beachside suburb of Castelldefels and would arrive at training together.

“How difficult it is going to be not to continue to share the days with you, both on the pitch and off it” wrote Messi in a post accompanied by seven pictures of the two men together, sometimes with their families. “We are going to miss you very much. It’s been many years, many cups of mate, lunches, dinners…Many things that I will never forget.”

“It’s going to be weird to see you with another shirt and much more to face you,” wrote Messi. “But I wish you all the best in this new challenge. I love you very much, I love you very much. See you soon, my friend.”

Tearful Suarez Says Goodbye To Barca Ahead Of Atletico Switch

 

 

Luis Suarez cried as he bid farewell to Barcelona on Thursday but said he wants to prove he can still deliver at the highest level after joining La Liga rivals Atletico Madrid. 

With Lionel Messi at Camp Nou for his best friend’s final press conference, Suarez said an emotional goodbye after scoring 198 goals for Barca, becoming the third-highest goalscorer in the history of the club.

“This is improvised because I have nothing prepared,” Suarez said wiping his eyes, having been introduced by the club’s president Josep Maria Bartomeu.

The 33-year-old’s move to Atletico on a two-year contract had been confirmed late on Wednesday night. Atletico have signed Suarez for free but could pay Barcelona 6 million euros ($6.9 million) in variables.

“I feel I’m capable of continuing to compete in this league,” Suarez said. “I feel very eager and even more after the last year we had, when I had my injury, which also leaves you with a bittersweet feeling.

“I am going the way I’m going to keep playing, with fresh motivation, with the objective to show I can continue competing.”

Suarez follows Arturo Vidal, Nelson Semedo and Ivan Rakitic through the exit door at Barcelona, where new coach Ronald Koeman has been tasked with renovating the squad.

Koeman told Suarez in August he was not part of the club’s plans.

“I expected it because it had been said already before the coach told me but I can accept it,” he said.

“When Barca told me they weren’t counting on me, there were many calls, many offers, but I was able to go to a team that can compete as equals with two great teams like Barcelona and Real Madrid. I had no doubts.”

Suarez will go down as one of Barcelona’s greatest ever players after helping them win four La Liga titles and a Champions League.

But his departure has not been smooth, with the club keen to push the Uruguayan out but reluctant to let him join Atletico.

“Players sometimes need a change, the club needed a change and this case the coach didn’t want me,” Suarez said. “I leave with the feeling that I have fulfilled expectations. To be the third highest scorer is not easy at all, it’s something I could never have imagined.”

Suarez’s departure could affect Messi’s future given the pair are neighbours and best friends. There have been reports in Spain suggesting Messi and Suarez’s friendship was no longer considered beneficial to the team.

“It’s been a crazy month,” said Suarez. “Things have been invented, things that are not true that have been leaked and that annoy you but we have to try to stay away from all that.

“Everyone knows the relationship I have with Leo. When you arrive at Barcelona they say to be careful with Leo and now after many years, Leo and I get along spectacularly and they say you are bad for him.

“We know the time we had in the team and that we tried to perform at our best and live up to what Barcelona is and in my case, I can leave feeling proud.”

AFP

Barcelona’s Luis Suarez Suspected Of Cheating In Italian Exam

File photo: Barcelona’s Uruguayan forward Luis Suarez gustures during the Spanish league football match between Real Betis and FC Barcelona at the Benito Villamarin stadium in Seville on March 17, 2019. JORGE GUERRERO / AFP

 

Barcelona forward Luis Suarez is suspected of cheating to pass his Italian language test with the help of his teachers, the Perugia prosecutor’s department in charge of the investigation said on Tuesday.

The Italian exam was a first step required in order to receive a passport ahead of a possible transfer to Juventus, a move which has seen been abandoned.

“The investigation showed that the subjects discussed during the exam were agreed beforehand with the candidate and that the grade was awarded to him even before the test,” the prosecutor’s department said in a statement.

File photo: Barcelona’s Uruguayan forward Luis Suarez (L) celebrates after scoring during the Spanish league football match SD Eibar against FC Barcelona at the Ipurua stadium in Eibar on October 19, 2019. STRINGER / AFP

 

Local prosecutor Raffaele Cantone, a former head of Italy’s National Anti-Corruption Authority, had been carrying out an investigation since February into University for Foreigners officials over various irregularities. Suspicions over Suarez were aroused by an overheard conversation.

“But what do you think, that we’re going to fail him? Today I have the last lesson (with Suarez) and I have to prepare it because he barely speaks a word” of Italian, Stefania Spina, one of the people targeted by the investigation, is claimed to have said according to prosecution documents cited by Italian media.

Asked by a colleague what level Suarez “should pass” in Italian, Spina reportedly replied: “He should not, he must, he will pass, because with a salary of 10 million (euros) per season, you can’t make him fail” his exam, “even if he doesn’t know how to conjugate verbs and speak in the infinitive.”

Juventus coach Andrea Pirlo said last week a proposed deal for Suarez was unlikely to go ahead because of delays in the Uruguayan’s bid to get an Italian passport.

The Italian champions cannot recruit Suarez otherwise because they have already reached their quota for non-EU players.

AFP

Barcelona Stay In Touch With Real Madrid And Send Down Rivals Espanyol

Barcelona's French defender Clement Lenglet (L) vies with Espanyol's Spanish forward Javier Puado during the Spanish League football match between Barcelona and Espanyol at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on July 8, 2020. (Photo by LLUIS GENE / AFP)
Barcelona’s French defender Clement Lenglet (L) vies with Espanyol’s Spanish forward Javier Puado during the Spanish League football match between Barcelona and Espanyol at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on July 8, 2020. (Photo by LLUIS GENE / AFP)

 

 

Barcelona kept their faint title hopes alive and doomed Espanyol to relegation on Wednesday as Luis Suarez’s goal proved the winner in a pivotal Catalan derby at the top and bottom of La Liga.

A cagey contest at Camp Nou exploded into life for six frantic minutes at the start of the second half as Ansu Fati and Pol Lozano were sent off, leaving each side with 10 men before Suarez struck.

Suarez profitted after another superb contribution from a reinvigorated Antoine Griezmann, his backheel setting up Lionel Messi to shoot, with Suarez turning in the rebound.

This 1-0 victory was a far cry from the sparkling 4-1 win over Villarreal on Sunday but it moves Barca to within a point of Real Madrid, who play their game in hand at home to Alaves on Friday.

Espanyol, rooted to the bottom of the table, will be relegated. They sit 11 points adrift of safety with only three games left to play.

“Life or death” read the front page of Mundo Deportivo on Thursday morning – for Barcelona, who had to win to stay in touch with Madrid, and for Espanyol, given they needed a victory to prolong their survival effort.

Griezmann’s combination with Suarez and Messi, coming after his sumptuous chip against Villarreal, sustains the Frenchman’s momentum but this was more of a gritty win against an Espanyol team that hit the post at 0-0 and had chances.

With the superior head-to-head and a kind last four fixtures, Real Madrid remain firm favourites.

“We have to win our next three games,” said Suarez. “What Madrid do is up to them. If they drop points, fantastic. We just have to be there if they do.”

Espanyol needed to win but have not beaten Barcelona in the league since 2009 when Mauricio Pochettino was in charge and Rufete, the team’s fourth coach this season, accepted Messi’s commiserations at the final whistle with a look of resignation.

The club’s supporters this week expressed anger after a “shameful season” under the Chinese Rastar Group, which took majority control in 2016.

– ‘Ask forgiveness’ -Only Barcelona, Real Madrid and Athletic Bilbao have spent more seasons in the top flight than Espanyol, who after 26 consecutive campaigns there must now rebuild.

“We ask forgiveness from our fans,” said Javi Lopez.

“We know these are tough moments for us but for our fans as well. This season nothing has gone right. It’s our fault and we are committed to coming back stronger.”

Barcelona had a lot of the ball in the first half but did little with it and in fact Espanyol had the better chances on the counter-attack.

Adri Embarba sped away down the right after honing on goal his finish had to be blocked by the outstretched right leg of Marc-Andre ter Stegen.

Ter Stegen was called upon again before half-time and this time Didac Vila raced clear down the left, his shot rebounding off the goalkeeper and Clement Lenglet before falling back to Vila, who hit the far post.

Quique Setien acted at the break, bringing Fati on and shifting Sergi Roberto to right-back but the 17-year-old lasted only five minutes, a high challenge on Fernando Calero earning in him a straight red card on review.

But any advantage Espanyol had was short-lived because Lozano then flew in high on Gerard Pique, with his studs up, and was also sent off to make it 10 against 10.

With the numbers equal but the spaces bigger, Barcelona could attack with greater freedom and they took the lead three minutes later.

A delightful Griezmann backheel teed up Messi to shoot and the ball spilled out for Suarez to tap in.

Messi almost added a second with a thumping volley at the back post while Espanyol wanted a penalty in injury-time when a shot hit the shoulder of Arturo Vidal. The appeals were rightly waved away.

Villarreal had earlier beaten Getafe 3-1 to reduce the gap behind Sevilla in fourth to three points.

Santi Cazorla scored two penalties for Villarreal to all-but end Getafe’s own hopes of Champions League qualification. Sevilla play away at Athletic Bilbao on Thursday.

Messi Returns To Barcelona Training, Suarez Fit Again

This handout pictured made available by FC Barcelona shows Barcelona's Argentine forward Lionel Messi attending a training session at the Ciutat Esportiva Joan Gamper in Sant Joan Despi on May 8, 2020. Miguel RUIZ / AFP / FC BARCELONA
This handout picture made available by FC Barcelona shows Barcelona’s Argentine forward Lionel Messi attending a training session at the Ciutat Esportiva Joan Gamper in Sant Joan Despi on May 8, 2020. Miguel RUIZ / AFP / FC BARCELONA

 

Lionel Messi returned to the Camp Nou on Saturday after missing two group training sessions with a slight leg injury, while Luis Suarez is set to be fit for the La Liga restart next week.

Messi trained alone indoors on Wednesday and Friday, but worked on the sidelines of a group session at Barca’s home stadium, according to the Spanish press.

La Liga leaders Barcelona play their first match since mid-March at Real Mallorca next Saturday.

Suarez will be fit to play for the first time since undergoing knee surgery in January after reporting feeling no pain following training.

Messi and Suarez have scored 38 goals between them in all competitions this season.

Barcelona lead Real Madrid by two points at the top of the table with 11 matches remaining.

AFP

Neymar Welcome Anytime At Barca, Says Suarez

Paris Saint-Germain’s Brazilian forward Neymar reacts during the French L1 football match against Lille at the Parc des Princes stadium in Paris on November 22, 2019.
FRANCK FIFE / AFP

 

Neymar “will always be welcome” back at Barcelona, the Spanish giants’ striker Luis Suarez told Mundo Deportivo on Wednesday.

Neymar left Barca in a world record move to Paris Saint-Germain in 2017 but has been persistently linked to a possible return to the Camp Nou.

Suarez told the paper: “Everybody knows ‘Ney’, we all know the affection we have for him in the dressing room.

“His ability is indisputable and he still has so much to show. He will always be welcome in the changing room, we appreciate him a lot.”

Suarez, 33, recovering from right knee surgery, said it was “complicated” to talk about players joining Barca at this time of crisis with the coronavirus pandemic.

“But I can talk about players, and these are huge players,” he commented when asked by the paper to discuss the rumours linking the 28-year-old Neymar with a Barca return.

The Uruguayan also had warm words for Inter Milan’s Lautaro Martinez, the 22-year-old Argentine whose name also been associated with a move to Catalonia.

“Lautaro is a player who is progressing in Italy, he is a flexible centre-forward, with spectacular moves and that shows what a great a striker he is.”

Questioned about how any eventual new signings would fit in Suarez said: “There will always be a healthy rivalry between us, and while we are all focused on the same objective, that is winning, any players who come in to help the team achieve its aims will always be welcome.”

He then turned to last week’s deal with the club to cut players’ wages by 70%, with Barca captain Lionel Messi accusing the club of undermining the squad during negotiations.

“There were some things that were said that were false, like that the players didn’t want to see their salaries reduced, that some were against it.

“That they (club management) were saying that without being part of the squad was annoying. It annoyed all the players.”

Suarez emphasised all the players were united from the start in wanting to help the club as much as possible.

“The deal was delayed because it’s not easy to revoke the salary of 22-23 players.

“It was worked out between the club and the players’ lawyers, but it wasn’t easy to do.”

 

 

AFP

Suarez Injures Calf Ahead Of Prague Test

Levante’s Portuguese defender Ruben Vezo (L) vies with Barcelona’s Uruguayan forward Luis Suarez during the Spanish League football match between Levante UD and FC Barcelona at the Ciutat de Valencia stadium in Valencia, on November 2, 2019. JOSE JORDAN / AFP

 

Barcelona striker Luis Suarez injured his right calf against Levante on Saturday and could miss Tuesday’s game at home to Slavia Prague in the Champions League. 

Suarez had to be replaced by Carles Perez in the first half at the City of Valencia stadium.

“Luis Suarez felt discomfort in his right calf,” Barcelona confirmed. “After returning to Barcelona, he will undergo tests to diagnose the extent of the injury.”

AFP

Valverde Excited By Messi And Suarez Rekindlng Partnership

Barcelona’s Spanish coach Ernesto Valverde gestures during the UEFA Champions league semi-final second leg football match between Liverpool and Barcelona at Anfield in Liverpool, north west England on May 7, 2019. Oli SCARFF / AFP

 

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.

AFP

Messi, Suarez Power Barcelona To 3-0 Victory Over Liverpool

Barcelona’s Lionel Messi (back) celebrates with Luis Suarez after scoring during the UEFA Champions League semi-final first leg clash with Liverpool at the Camp Nou Stadium. LLUIS GENE / AFP

 

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.

Messi scores a free kick during the clash. JOSE JORDAN / AFP

 

The two sides meet again on Tuesday for the decisive second leg at Anfield.

 

Barcelona A ‘Little Closer’ To La Liga Title After Atletico Win

Barcelona A 'Little Closer' To La Liga Title After Atletico Win
Barcelona’s Argentinian forward Lionel Messi (R) and Barcelona’s Uruguayan forward Luis Suarez (2R) celebrate their two goals during the Spanish league football match between FC Barcelona and Club Atletico de Madrid at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on April 6, 2019. LLUIS GENE / AFP

 

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.

Messi, Suarez Fit To Play Against Espanyol, Says Barcelona Coach

Barcelona’s Argentinian forward Lionel Messi/AFP

 

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.”

READ ALSO: Ronaldo’s Absence Gives Kean Chance To Shine At Juventus

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.

“We know what we are playing this week.”

AFP