Luis Suárez may have been content to downplay his contribution at Paris Saint-Germain but nobody else was – he could just be the missing piece of the jigsaw for FC Barcelona.
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"Luis Suárez did what he does best," sighed Edinson Cavani, fresh from watching his Uruguay team-mate score a pair of magnificent goals at the Parc des Princes. The forwards had just experienced wildly contrasting evenings, but even the crestfallen Cavani had to admire the way his international colleague had put FC Barcelona on the brink of the UEFA Champions League semi-finals with a 3-1 win at Paris Saint-Germain.
Much of the pre-match talk revolved around a pair of Argentinians in Lionel Messi and Paris playmaker Javier Pastore, but the story of this quarter-final opener had a distinctly Uruguayan accent. True, Brazil star Neymar slotted in from a Messi pass to put Barcelona 1-0 up, but Suárez made the game his own with a pair of second-half gems. Cavani, meanwhile, spurned opportunities that came his way and struggled with his first touch, leaving the hosts blunt as an attacking force.
Positioned in his favourite central position, this was Cavani's time to shine, a chance to impress in a massive UEFA Champions League encounter while Zlatan Ibrahimović was suspended. Instead, it was Suárez who stole the limelight, his first goal coming when he danced brilliantly past Maxwell, David Luiz and Marquinhos and slotted beyond Salvatore Sirigu. His second was no less eye-catching, the summer signing from Liverpool FC cheekily slipping the ball through Luiz's legs before unleashing a wonderful curling effort from distance.
"[The first] was a nice piece of play," he explained afterwards. "With the third goal we were able to relax a bit more." Possibly they relaxed too much, as Paris pulled back a late consolation when Gregory van der Wiel's late shot was deflected into his own net by Jérémy Mathieu. In truth, it is hard to escape the feeling that Suárez has settled this tie, just as his two goals at Manchester City FC in the last round gave the Blaugrana a telling platform.
"He showed today again that he's very deadly," added Van der Wiel, the 27-year-old's friend and team-mate when the duo were at AFC Ajax between 2007 and 2011. "He gets into spaces a lot – that's what he does. And we couldn't stop him tonight." Few teams can when Suárez is in this kind of touch, and, after struggling in Barcelona's 2-2 draw at Sevilla FC on Saturday, he resumed the form that has brought him 11 goals in his last 11 games.
More importantly, he offers Barcelona something they have lacked in recent seasons – a pure centre-forward, capable of making perfectly timed runs, providing a focal point and allowing Messi and Neymar to weave their spells in deeper positions, while also creating space for those two by dragging defenders away.
"Suárez is a great player, both physically strong and very agile technically," added Blaugrana coach Luis Enrique. "Of course he scores a lot of goals, like he did at Ajax and Liverpool." True, but he also gives them another dimension and it could yet take Barcelona all the way to Berlin.