Barcelona's Ernesto Valverde keeping faith in Luis Suarez despite misses
BARCELONA -- Ernesto Valverde insists Luis Suarez remains "priceless" to Barcelona despite the Uruguayan scoring just three goals in 11 appearances this season.
Suarez's late equaliser at Atletico Madrid last weekend looked to have kick-started his campaign, but he missed two big chances in Saturday's 2-0 win against Malaga and was replaced late on by Paco Alcacer.
As well as concerns about his form, Suarez is also struggling with a knee injury and has been since the Spanish Super Cup. In a bid to sort the problem out once and for all, he will take a break from football during the next international break.
"[Suarez] looks good to me," Barca coach Valverde said in his postgame news conference. "It's the third game he has played in six days. He had a great game against Atletico and he was tireless against Olympiakos, but he always gets chances.
"That aggressiveness he plays with guarantees he will always be in there. The more chances he misses, the better, because [it means] he's there. He is priceless for us."
Suarez was still given a rousing reception by the Camp Nou crowd when he was taken off but he cut a frustrated figure as he made his way towards the bench, throwing his sweatbands to the ground in disappointment.
"Suarez is ambitious and no one likes to be taken off," Valverde responded when asked if the forward's reaction was unnecessary. "Everyone wants to play, everyone wants to start... I don't see any problem."
Barca's goals against Malaga came from Gerard Deulofeu -- his first for the club -- and Andres Iniesta, although the opener came in controversial fashion.
The ball had already gone out of play when Lucas Digne crossed for Deulofeu in the second minute, leading to angry protestations from the visiting players.
Valverde admitted he had "doubts" about the legitimacy of the goal but said he couldn't tell for sure from his position on the bench, while Iniesta said he understood the visiting side's complaints.
"It seems as if the ball went out of play but I have not seen anything yet," the Barca captain said. "These decisions have to be taken in a matter of seconds and [the referee] decided it hadn't gone out.
"It was a positive for us because it ended in a goal. But I understand that Malaga could be upset with the decision."
Barca's run-of-games shows no signs of easing up, although Valverde may take the chance to rest some tired legs in Tuesday's Copa del Rey tie at Real Murcia.
"We lacked rhythm in the first half, a bit of freshness," he said after unbeaten Barca restored their four-point lead at the top of the table over second-placed Valencia.
"When you're accumulating so many games, the tiredness is not just physical but mental. I am happy to have got the three points, considering this was the third game in six days.
"You have to keep your focus to be able to play these type of games. [Malaga] had a lot to play for and they set up well. They're a good team, going through a difficult spell, but they made it tough for us."
Samuel Marsden covers Barcelona for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @SamuelMarsden.