There was no rest for Luis Suarez. While Lionel Messi, Jordi Alba, Sergio Busquets, Marc-Andre ter Stegen and Paulinho were all left out of the team to face Sporting CP on Tuesday, the South American striker was included in the starting XI. But he endured another disappointing night.
Barcelona boss Ernesto Valverde was probably hoping that the Uruguayan would put his sorry streak in the Champions League to bed by netting against the Portuguese side, having failed to net in Europe this season. Once again, though, he ended up without a goal.
With so many changes to the team and Barca already guaranteed top spot in Group D, this was never likely to be a spectacular showing and so it proved in front of a relatively modest Camp Nou crowd.
However, Suarez almost produced the moment of the night in the first half, passing the ball around a defender in the box in a wonderful piece of skill which set him up for a finish. Instead of completing it with a clinical strike, though, he shot straight at the legs of goalkeeper Rui Patricio.
It was a moment that summed up this season’s Suarez. A flash of brilliance, but ultimately a disappointment. And, in the end, he was withdrawn with 15 minutes remaining, still without a Champions League goal to his name in six fixtures this season – and only one in his last 13 overall in Europe’s premier club competition.
While Suarez failed to convert, Paco Alcacer did take his chance, the Spain striker scoring his first Champions League goal for the Catalan club with a fine header. He also came close to a second late on as he fired just the wrong side of the post after being put through by Messi.
Barca’s second of the night was an own goal from the returning Jeremy Mathieu, the French defender under pressure from Alcacer again with the 24-year-old ready to pounce at the far post.
Alcacer now has five goals for Barca in just 10 games (and only six starts) this season. By comparison, Suarez has netted six in 18 appearances, having started in every single one of those matches.