Spanish giants Barcelona are in the midst of a potentially history-making season. They are currently on a remarkable 39-game unbeaten run across all competitions, nine points clear at the summit of La Liga and they’ll contest this year’s Copa del Rey final in Madrid against Sevilla in May.
If that wasn’t enough, Luis Enrique’s team are the favourites to retain the Champions League following their 5-1 aggregate win over Arsenal, and if they do so they will be the first side to ever successfully defend the European Cup in the Champions League era.
Most important players
Spanish midfielders Andres Iniesta and Sergio Busquets help to ensure the continuation of the club’s long-standing footballing philosophy by moving the ball quickly, at a high tempo, and dominating possession. 24-year-old Brazil captain Neymar has developed into a global phenomenon while Lionel Messi is a genius and without question the greatest player of his generation.
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Even though these superstars deserve a lot of credit and while their importance can’t be underestimated, Luis Suarez has evolved into the best striker in world football and become the key to Barcelona’s incredible success.
Suarez enjoyed a fantastic debut season with the Catalan giants, winning the treble and netting 25 times but this season he’s gone up to completely different level. He boasts a simply sensational goalscoring record of 43 goals in 43 games in all competitions thus far, which is more than both Messi and Neymar. He is two behind Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo in the race for the Pichichi, he’s at the top of the Copa del Rey scoring charts and with 12 assists he’s set up more goals than anyone else in La Liga.
Suarez is the complete centre-forward – good in the air, excellent at linking up play, technically gifted, calm in and around the penalty area and clinical whenever presented with a chance on goal. He’s not as quick as Messi or Neymar but he’s not afraid to put himself about and with his immense work-rate, he acts as Barcelona’s first line of defence.
The direct style of his dribbling makes him extremely difficult to stop when he’s in full flow because he possesses the skill and guile to beat defenders in one-on-one situations and an uncanny ability to create something out of absolutely nothing. Suarez also scores all types of goals, from tap-ins to the superb acrobatic volley he produced against Arsenal last week.
Uruguay’s all-time record goalscorer has been so good that if he maintains his current level of performance for the rest of the year, he could provide serious competition to Messi and Ronaldo with regards to the next FIFA Ballon d’Or.
Suarez’s impact on Messi
Before the ex-Liverpool man joined Barcelona, Messi operated primarily as a false striker, picking up the ball from deep and running menacingly towards goal. As a result, opposition centre-backs had no one to mark and they could focus solely on nullifying the threat of the Argentinian magician.
Ever since Suarez’s arrival at the Nou Camp, his presence on the pitch as a genuine centre-forward means that central defenders are fully occupied with him alone. The 29-year-old’s movement is exquisite and he’s intelligent enough to make runs that drag defenders out of position and in turn create plenty of space for Messi and Neymar to wreak havoc.
As everyone knows, the trio of Messi, Suarez and Neymar formed a devastating partnership last season as the Catalan giants won the treble, and they’ve been even more deadly this season. So far this season the all-South American front three have scored a ridiculous total of 107 goals, which constitutes to just over 75% of Barca’s overall goal tally.
The difficulty for teams facing Barcelona is that all three of their forwards are world-class, so if you focus entirely on stopping one of them, the other two will pick you off with consummate ease. Suarez has already won five trophies at Barca and with his qualities, the five-time Champions League winners could dominate both Spanish and European football for the foreseeable future.
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