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BARCELONA

Luis Suárez: Barça sweat on striker's latest injury setback

Barcelona were outclassed at the Ciutat de Valencia and Ernesto Valverde faces another injury lay-off for his only pure number nine.

Barcelona had no answer to a second-half, seven-minute blitz by Levante in the Ciutat de Valencia on Saturday as the Liga champions were beaten 3-1 and Ernesto Valverde now faces the same question he was forced to address earlier in the season after Luis Suárez limped off in the first half with a muscle issue.

The Uruguay forward was out for almost a month earlier in the season after picking up a calf injury against Athletic on the opening day but fortunately for Barcelona the striker’s issue coincided with the international break, meaning Suárez missed just two Liga matches.

Now, with the fixtures coming thick and fast, if he is out of action for a similar timeframe Suárez could miss five games, against Slavia Prague and Dortmund in the Champions League and Celta, Leganés and Atlético in domestic action.

Barcelona said in a statement after the game that further tests will be carried out to assess the extent of Suárez’s injury but the forward was clutching the same calf before he was substituted on Saturday.

Valverde will look to Griezmann to pick up the slack

Since he recovered from the injury at Athletic, Suárez has played every minute of every Barça fixture in all competitions and is the side’s top scorer with eight in 11 games.

In the absence of his number nine against Osasuna and Betis, Valverde played Antoine Griezmann through the middle with support from Rafinha and Carles Pérez, which also led to Ansu Fati’s emergence with the first team. Pérez has since dropped down the pecking order while Rafinha joined Celta on loan. Ousmane Dembélé has been hampered by injury and Griezmann has yet to fully adapt to life at Camp Nou, although the weight of responsibility will likely fall on the Frenchman if Suárez is out for a significant while. 

At that stage Leo Messi was also injured and the presence of the Argentinean, who had scored in four consecutive games up until Saturday, alleviates the problem somewhat for the Barça boss but the loss of Suárez will still bite deep: after netting twice in the second Liga fixture of the campaign against Betis, Griezmann has only scored two more in the league and is yet to get off the mark in Europe.