Can Luis Suarez deliver in El Clasico?

The stage is set for Luis Suarez to come off the bench and score the winning goal for Barcelona against Real Madrid at the Bernabeu this weekend.

At least, that’s what I’m hoping for.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve never been a fan of the South American. Not with Liverpool. Not with Ajax and definitely not with Uruguay.

But something tells me there’s more bite to his tale and legacy in the game, than just fizzling out after a 4-month ban. It’s just not the time for his star to wane. At least not in this fairytale.

The good news is, he has scored on his debut for both his past clubs, Ajax and Liverpool. In the former, he started against De Graafschap and helped to double the lead. For the latter, he started from the bench, came on to score in the 79th minute, to give the Reds a comfortable margin and see out Stoke City. But these could easily be coincidences in the game.

Every camera lens and eyes will be focused on Suarez this weekend. The El Clasico has always held its own for being the most anticipated ‘derby’ in world football. This weekend, there will be another reason to tune in – Suarez’s debut for Barcelona. If that isn’t enough to pique the interest of football fans, I don’t know what is.

Will it be a slow and steady climb back on the saddle? Or will it be as if he was never gone at all? I’m hoping it’s the latter because it did not bother his form at all after he returned from the 8-match ban for Liverpool back in 2011/12. He netted 6 goals in the remaining 11 matches, to add to his tally of 11 goals for the season. Do the math – there’s 7 more months to the end of the current La Liga season. With a team consisting of Messi, Neymar and Iniesta, Barca are incomparable to that Liverpool side. Just imagine the damage he is capable of in La Liga and the Champions League!

The bigger test will be on how he adapts from being the big fish in a small pond, to being part of a school of superstars. I hope the new role suits him. There’s less dependence, slightly less unwanted attention, more leeway to focus on the job at hand, no need to dictate proceedings or lead the way upfront. He’s got help now. He does not need to go it alone anymore.

You have to also wonder, if Neymar was brought in to lighten the burden for Messi, was Suarez meant to dim the spotlight on Neymar if just for a bit? Or is the trio meant to keep opponents guessing with each match, on how to minimize damage to their league position?

Barca hold the upper hand, going into this one with 3 wins out of 5, scoring 11 but conceding 7 at Real’s home turf. The personnel has changed slightly over those 5 seasons. Besides Suarez, it will also be the first El Clasico for Ivan Rakitic if he plays, their current first choice goalie Claudio Bravo and Frenchman Jeremy Mathieu. As for the home team, James Rodriguez, Toni Kroos and Javier Hernandez if he plays a part, are expected to be tested in their derby debut.

Barca are still undefeated in the league and what’s even more mesmerizing is that they’ve not conceded a single league goal yet, but have scored 22 the other way. It’s a formidable side both on paper and according to the form guide. Adding Suarez to the fold can only improve the team in all areas, especially from the goal scoring department obviously. And even in that area, Neymar and Messi are already in double digits themselves this season.

The home team Real, may have a certain Cristiano Ronaldo setting records across the board but the last time I checked, football is played and won by a team of 11 men. Not an individual. Just ask the national German team. Carlo Ancelotti has us thinking he does not have Sergio Ramos and Gareth Bale for this one. Raphael Varane and Isco came in for Real during the midweek Champions League win away to Liverpool, and they are expected to start as well over the weekend. How the Frenchman and Pepe plan to handle the 3-prong attack of Messi, Neymar and Suarez is anyone’s guess

Be as it may, the Uruguayan bad boy is undoubtedly a very talented footballer, despite his shortcomings. To put it into perspective, his scoring rate was almost 70% at Ajax and more than 60% at Anfield. On average he usually needs 2 seasons to fully warm up before blazing the goal scoring charts. But that doesn’t stop him from turning heads and dropping jaws with his sheer ability. He will definitely deliver at Barcelona. It will only be a matter of time. His steady climb up the ladder of club football has proven nothing is too daunting for the man And he’ll prove just that at El Clasico this weekend.

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