Luis Enrique backs Suarez

Luis Suarez (Supplied)
Luis Suarez (Supplied)

Barcelona - Barcelona coach Luis Enrique has backed Luis Suarez after the Uruguay forward came in for criticism for his performance in last weekend's 'Clasico' defeat at Real Madrid.

Suarez made his official debut for Barca in the 3-1 reverse at the Bernabeu after his four-month ban for biting an opponent expired the day before, but made little impact and was replaced midway through the second half.

Although he was involved in Neymar's opening goal and almost set up Lionel Messi to score, it was generally agreed that Suarez lacked sharpness and he was well marshalled by Real centre backs Sergio Ramos and Pepe.

Some questioned Luis Enrique's decision to include Suarez in the starting lineup but the former Spain and Barca midfielder, who also had a stint at Real, insisted the 27-year-old was close to peak fitness.

"He is in very good shape, training at the same rhythm as his team mates," Luis Enrique told a news conference previewing Saturday's La Liga game at home to Celta Vigo.

"He is a great boost to the squad," he added. "We thought that back in the summer when we decided to sign him and we will see that throughout the season."

Luis Enrique took over as Barca coach at the end of last term after guiding Celta to a ninth-place finish and earning plaudits for an entertaining playing style.

Under new Argentine coach Eduardo Berizzo, Celta have made a fine start to their latest campaign and are sixth after nine matches, six points behind joint leaders Barca and Sevilla.

"It's a game that is more special to prepare for," Luis Enrique said.

"It is even a bit strange as I know all their players so well," he added.

"They are a very hard-working team, with a coach who wants them to keep the ball.

"They don't take risks, they go after the ball, they pressure you. I am very pleased with the way they have started the season."

Barca can pull three points clear of Sevilla with a win at the Nou Camp as the Andalusians are not playing at Athletic Bilbao until Sunday.

Real are a point behind Barca and Sevilla in third and play at Granada on Saturday.

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