Ernesto Valverde Not Concerned by Luis Suarez's Champions League Goal Drought

Matt JonesFeatured ColumnistFebruary 20, 2019

LYON, FRANCE - FEBRUARY 19: Luis Suarez of Barcelona during the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 First Leg match between Olympique Lyonnais (OL) and FC Barcelona at Groupama Stadium on February 19, 2019 in Decines near Lyon, France. (Photo by Jean Catuffe/Getty Images)
Jean Catuffe/Getty Images

Barcelona manager Ernesto Valverde has said he's not concerned by the recent goalless run being endured by forward Luis Suarez in the UEFA Champions League. 

After their 0-0 draw at Lyon in the first leg of their last-16 showdown on Tuesday, Suarez has now gone five games in Europe's top-tier competition without a goal and has netted on just one occasion in his last 17 outings in the tournament.

When asked about the barren spell Suarez is suffering in the Champions League, Valverde pointed to the work being done by the Uruguay international for the rest of the team, per Sam Marsden of ESPN FC:

"It doesn't worry me. It would worry me if he wasn't getting chances, which is what you ask for from a centre-forward.

"And [even] if he doesn't have chances, he creates them for his team-mates. Opponents are frightened of him. He [must] be reserving himself. ... Football is a game of margins. Strikers have runs [of goals] and the best thing is he's getting chances."

The fixture not only saw a continuation of Suarez's dry spell in European football, but also the team's issues when it comes to away games on the continent. The game was the sixth in succession in Champions League knockout matches in which Barcelona have failed to win.

It could have been worse for Barca were it not for a stunning save from goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen:

Ben Hayward of the Evening Standard put the team's difficult run on the road into some context:

While it would be foolish to lay the blame for that run at the feet of Suarez, it would be a big help for Barcelona if he was able to replicate his La Liga goalscoring form at this point in the Champions League; the 32-year-old has scored 15 times in the Spanish top flight this term.

As Valverde noted, there are other aspects to Suarez's game that make him an important member of the team. His running remains relentless and his movement is key in freeing up Lionel Messi to work his magic.

Still, at this stage of such a high-profile competition, Barcelona supporters will want to see their No. 9 be a little more decisive. Football writer Daniel Storey, his last away goal in a European clash came a long time ago:

Per ESPN FC, the Uruguayan isn't offering a creative presence in the Champions League either:

If Barcelona are to seriously challenge for this title this season it's key Suarez rediscovers a golden touch again. After all, aside from loan signing Kevin-Prince Boateng, the team are short of options to lead the line.

After a stalemate in France the Blaugrana are in a strong position to qualify in the second leg, when a win would be enough at the Camp Nou. If Suarez could find his shooting boots again in this encounter, it would give Barcelona a big boost ahead of possible quarter-final ties.

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