Luis Suarez Goal Drought Goes on as Rafinha Shines for Barcelona

Rik Sharma@@riksharma_Featured ColumnistFebruary 1, 2015

FC Barcelona's Luis Suarez, from Uruguay, left, in action against Villarreal's Mario Gaspar, second left, during a Spanish La Liga soccer match at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, Spain, Sunday, Feb. 1, 2015. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)
Manu Fernandez/Associated Press

CAMP NOU, Barcelona — Luis Suarez seemed to be blaming his boots as he left the pitch on Sunday, substituted for Pedro after another frustrating night in front of goal. He sat down on the bench, took them off and threw them to the floor in fury.

The Uruguayan won't have been angry with how the game itself was going, given his side were leading and seeing out the last few minutes. 

No, the only reason he was upset was because he had several chances to score and couldn't find the net.

If you wanted to defend Suarez's performance, you could even point to his contribution to Barcelona's second and third goals.

Suarez forced the ball across the box in the buildup to Rafinha's strike, while he fed Lionel Messi for what turned out to be the winner.

BARCELONA, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 01:  Luis Suarez of FC Barcelona misses a chance to score during the La Liga match between FC Barcelona and Villarreal CF at Camp Nou on February 1, 2015 in Barcelona, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
David Ramos/Getty Images

But five goals in 18 games is nowhere near enough, considering the quality of chances he has enjoyed. Suarez cost Barcelona £75 million, per BBC Sport, and he needs to start paying a return on that investment.

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He was lucky that his two strike partners, Neymar and Messi, and youngster Rafinha, had all packed their own shooting boots. The latter was arguably the star performer in the 3-2 win over Villarreal, proving to the coach that he can cut it at this level.

Rafinha had been a favourite of Luis Enrique's at Celta Vigo last season, on loan. Injuries have stopped him from playing more this season, but there's also an element of risk that Enrique needs to consider, if he puts in his man for one of the more established stars the team possesses.

BARCELONA, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 01:  Rafinha of FC Barcelona scores his team's second goal during the La Liga match between FC Barcelona and Villarreal CF at Camp Nou on February 1, 2015 in Barcelona, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
David Ramos/Getty Images

BARCELONA, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 01:  Rafinha of FC Barcelona competes for the ball with Mario Gaspar of Villarreal CF during the La Liga match between FC Barcelona and Villarreal CF at Camp Nou on February 1, 2015 in Barcelona, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/G
David Ramos/Getty Images

But while he would have liked to bask in the glory of his Rafinha selection, instead he was forced to defend Suarez after the game, in his post-match press conference.

The Asturian manager said: "Suarez brings a lot to the game. He works hard defensively and pushes back the centre backs. The goals will come, no doubt. He will score important goals for us this season."

While Barcelona keep winning, the pressure on Suarez's shoulders won't help him—nor will it destroy him.

The club have triumphed eight times in a row, since their humbling at Anoeta by David Moyes' Real Sociedad.

BARCELONA, SPAIN - JANUARY 21:  Joao Miranda (L) of Club Atletico de Madrid and Luis Suarez of FC Barcelona fight for the ball during the Copa del Rey Quarter-Final First Leg match between FC Barcelona and Club Atletico de Madrid at Camp Nou on January 21
Alex Caparros/Getty Images

That's kept the wolves from Suarez's door, Enrique's, too, and despite the coach's public statements of support, he will want to get the striker scoring as quickly as possible.

Barcelona will live and die by their strike force this season, and as good as Messi and Neymar are, they will have the occasional off day when the third member of the triumvirate must deliver goals to keep the team afloat.

It isn't as easy as it looks being a Barcelona striker, but Suarez is certainly better than he's looked.

ELCHE, SPAIN - JANUARY 24:  Luis Suarez of Barcelona looks on prior to the start of the La Liga match between Elche FC and FC Barcelona at Estadio Manuel Martinez Valero on January 24, 2015 in Elche, Spain.  (Photo by Manuel Queimadelos Alonso/Getty Image
Manuel Queimadelos Alonso/Getty Images

But while the former Liverpool marksman may be sitting at home, agonising over the highlights of his missed chances, Rafinha will be scrutinising the same video and feeling pleased with his own contribution.

From playing an important part of attacking moves, through to showing defensive responsibility and taking a booking for the team to stop a Villarreal break, it was an encouraging performance by Thiago Alcantara's brother.

Some Barcelona fans will take this as reason to believe that one day, letting the current Bayern Munich player leave won't seem like such a bad decision, as it did at the time, and in the subsequent months. 

And Enrique will be pleased too. Rafinha is, after all, his man, and even if it wasn't always pretty at times against Villarreal, the midfielder's performance and Barcelona's matched the dogged determination of the coach.

Whether he leaves the club in the summer or not, after the elections, the very least we will be able to say about Enrique is that he built the team in his image, in his way. And should he stay fit, Rafinha can become an emblem of that.

Luis Enrique press conference quotes taken firsthand.