Barcelona Has A Luis Suárez Problem

Barcelona and Lyon played to a 0-0 draw at the Parc Olympique Lyonnais on Tuesday in the first leg of a Champions League Round of 16 encounter, giving a slight edge to the Blaugrana ahead of the return leg at the Camp Nou on Mar. 13. 

The first half was a tubthumping affair with Lyon carving out three good opportunities, only to be denied twice by Marc-André ter Stegen while sending another effort blazing over.

Barcelona also offered its share of enticing play in the first half. Jordi Alba found an unmarked Lionel Messi about 12 yards out, but the Barca captain got his effort horribly wrong. 

Neither side was nearly as effective in attack throughout the second half, and although Barcelona ended the match with 25 shots — including nine from Messi — the breakthrough never seemed all that evident. It says a lot that Sergio Busquets seemed the most likely source of goals with his ability to ghost free at the top of the box, but it was that sort of night for the visitors.

And by that sort of night, I mean it was a recurrence of Luis Suárez playing Champions League football — it was the sort of Suárez European display that’s come to define the last three years of his career.

In his last 23 UCL games, Suárez has scored two goals. Coming into Tuesday's match, he hadn’t scored away in the UCL in 1,252 days – it’s been more than three years since he scored against Roma at the Stadio Olimpico during the group stages of the 2015-16 competition.

And it doesn’t make any sense whatsoever.

Watch Suárez play in LaLiga, where he has 15 goals and five assists in 23 games, and it’s obvious that he’s one of the greatest No. 9s on the planet. He’s an absolute monster.

But watch Suárez in the UCL and he’s all of his 32 years of age and needs to be replaced immediately. How to account for these two versions of El Pistolero? I have no clue. It’s like suddenly his head grows three sizes too large and his feet are transformed into Timberland boots and his only real attribute is getting opponents booked with the pain tolerance of a small child.  

Much was made of the fact that he only managed one goal in 10 UCL matches last season, but he’s yet to open his account this time around after five appearances. 

At this point, the alternative for Barcelona is to play Kevin-Prince Boateng up top, so there’s obviously no alternative. 

Other players will rightly come in for some criticism: Ousmane Dembélé wasn’t sharp, and Sergi Roberto had a quiet night in midfield, but it’s impossible to look past the malaise affecting the Uruguayan.   

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