Luis Suarez is set for an emotional Champions League debut with Barcelona at his former club Ajax Amsterdam after completing his four-month biting ban.
The 27-year-old, who scored 16 goals in 32 continental appearances for Ajax between 2007 and 2011, expects a warm reception from the Amsterdam Arena crowd ahead of his third appearance for Barca.
“I feel good and am looking forward to playing,” Suarez said in an interview with AS “It’s a game this will evoke great memories.”
The onus is on the Catalans to bounce back on Wednesday night and avoid further catastrophe following a disappointing week, when they suffered two successive league defeats at Real Madrid and at home to Celta Vigo for the first time in 73 years last weekend.
Another defeat in Amsterdam would leave Luis Enrique’s men just a point in front of the Dutch side in second place and present leaders Paris St-Germain (PSG) the chance to extend the lead over them to four points, which would reduce their chances of topping the group.
“Barca is a club where the obligation to win is ever-present,” added Suarez. “Suffering two back-to-back defeats certainly hurts and it’s time to amend this situation.”
Response to the Uruguay international’s performance after his first two matches has been encouraging but the statistics have been damning: eight league matches without losing nor conceding a goal without the former Liverpool and Gronigen forward, and two defeats in a row with him with a total of four goals conceded.
Coach Enrique’s change of tactic in the El Clasico and their approach to last weekend’s defeat by Celta Vigo has fueled debate about the style at the Camp Nou again.
The other bone of contention concerns the best way to fit Suarez into an attacking setup that includes Lionel Messi and Neymar. Argentina skipper Messi appeared to be playing deeper before Suarez’s arrival but when he came in, the four-time world footballer of the year moved up front, with Suarez on the right.
“I said that I didn’t feel tactically comfortable against Madrid but against Celta I was fine. That needs to be acknowledged,” remarked Suarez.
Quizzed on his best position, he said: “I’m a forward who likes to score goals. Certain people are hung up on last season’s position when I was playing out on the left or on the right.”
Suarez “love celebrating goals”, but back at the ground where his career in Europe took a giant leap; the forward “will not celebrate” should he gets Barca’s goals tonight.
Suarez explained: “Going there was one of the best decisions of my career, they gave many things as a player and the opportunity to play in the Champions League. When I was there I hoped about playing at Barca one day. Now I’ve fulfilled two dreams.
“Everyone knows the admiration I have for them. I’m sure an opportunity to play for them in the future may even materialise too.”