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Suarez makes his mark on familiar territory

25 February 2015, 15:27

Barcelona - Inevitably it was on English soil that Luis Suarez enjoyed his first marquee night in a Barcelona shirt.

Last season's Premier League player of the year, and the man who ended England's World Cup dreams with a double for Uruguay in Sao Paulo before he grabbed the headlines for all the wrong reasons in Brazil, beat Joe Hart twice more on Tuesday night to give Barca a commanding 2-1 lead over Manchester City in the first leg of their Champions League last 16 tie.

Despite many misgivings, Barcelona weren't put off acquiring Suarez's signature despite following up his brace against England by biting Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini - the third time he had bitten an opponent in his career.

The retribution from FIFA was swift and strong, a four-month ban that initially even prevented him from training with his new teammates and an nine-game international ban that will see him miss this summer's Copa America.

Also read: Suarez brace puts Barca in charge

His misdemeanours have not been forgotten in the country he left behind after a three-and-a-half year spell at Liverpool. On Wednesday the backpages of the English newspapers were awash with biting and chewing puns.

In Barcelona there was satisfaction with a job well done, albeit with a late let-off as Hart denied Lionel Messi a third away goal from the penalty spot.

"A recital with pardon," ran the headline in the Catalan sports daily Mundo Deportivo.

Suarez played down the personal importance of his goals, but his roars of joy as the ball struck the back of the net on both occasions unleashed the frustration of a difficult few months.

"They are important goals that serve to help the team in the tie and that is why I am happy," he said.

"But we are aware that we are Barca and we need to show our strength in the Camp Nou."

The club always insisted Suarez would be worth the wait, the South American partnership of he, Neymar and four-time world player of the year Messi arguably creating the most feared forward line the game has ever seen.

However, it has taken longer than many expected for Suarez to assimilate from being the big fish to just another player in a pond full of stars.

When Suarez returned from his four-month ban on the biggest stage of all in El Clasico against Real Madrid in October, the Uruguayan appeared weighed down by expectations and a lack of fitness from a four-month hiatus.

The latter didn't come quickly as Barca lost their first two games of the season in Suarez's first two appearances. By the turn of the year he had managed just three goals in 11 games.

Yet, it is hardly coincidental that Barca's return to form in 2015 has coincided with Suarez finding his feet.

Tuesday's brace with his fourth goal in five matches, whilst the Messi, Neymar, Suarez trio, have racked up 30 goals and 13 assists between them in Barca's last 13 games.

Off the field Barca remain a club on the verge of institutional crisis. Unpopular president Jose Maria Bartomeu will have to fight elections at the end of the season, meanwhile they remain in a lengthy legal battle with the Spanish authorities over how much tax they owe on Neymar's transfer from Santos in 2013.

However, with the Blaugrana on the verge of the Copa del Rey final, still in the hunt for La Liga and well set for the Champions League quarter-finals, Bartomeu's bet on Suarez is beginning to reap its reward.

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