Barcelona are hopeful right now, of winning each of their remaining three games and that Real Madrid will somehow slip up. The La Liga is at an interesting juncture with Barcelona and Real Madrid level on 81 points, but the Catalans have played a game extra.
So far, the will of Lionel Messi has pulled Barcelona through, but the Argentine would eventually need the help of his teammates. Brazilian Neymar can be sensational at times, and oddly erratic – prone to making challenges that earn him red cards.
But on Saturday, when Barcelona travelled to Espanyol and won 3-0, Messi was not on the scoresheet. This time it was the Uruguayan-- from Barca’s lethal South American attacking trio – who stepped up. Luis Suarez scored a brace to announce his return to form, and exactly when his team needs him to be in that vein.
For five games, the 30-year-old had not scored, which only added to the pressure mounting on manager Luis Enrique. Still, over the weeks, Suarez has persisted. He’s played in his favoured number 9 role, using his strength and speed to hassle defenders, often shrugging off challenges with ease before darting into space to be a target man.
Against Espanyol, it was all about his reading and awareness.
The pressure was building up on Barca. Goalless at half-time was not a favourable position, especially since a title was on the line. But five minutes after the restart, Suarez provided a glimpse of that fabled ‘striker’s instinct.’
He watched, from far up field, as Espanyol’s Jurado was being starved of options to pass. He opted for a return grounded ball back to his goalkeeper, only he didn’t direct it well enough.
Suarez pounced, taking off with pace and sprinting to make the interception. One-on-one with the goalkeeper, the Uruguayan slotted the ball in calmly.
His second and Barcelona’s third was another typical poacher’s goal. Messi’s long ball to his teammate was cut-off by Espanyol full-back Aaron, but his mistimed swing of the foot had the ball fall kindly towards Suarez who was lurking just behind him.
He was quickly on to the ball yet again, dodging the keeper to slot home in an empty net.
Currently, Barcelona have a superior goal difference to Real Madrid’s, keeping them on the top of the charts for the time being. They’ll have to continue scoring heavily, and Suarez just provided two more valuable additions to the 104 Barcelona have scored this term.
Now, just as Suarez did to be patient and poach for his opportunity, all that Barcelona can do is keep winning and wait for the Madrid slip.