Football

Barcelona coach Quique Setien most pleased with Luis Suarez’s return

Barca coach impressed with striker's run-out after recovery from knee injury

The return of striker Luis Suarez in Barcelona's 4-0 drubbing of Real Mallorca gave coach Quique Setien the most satisfaction.

The La Liga leaders made the perfect return to action yesterday morning (Singapore time) after Spanish football's three-month hiatus due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Goals from Lionel Messi, Arturo Vidal, Martin Braithwaite and Jordi Alba helped Barca to a five-point lead over second-placed Real Madrid, who hosted Eibar this morning.

The enforced break turned out to be a blessing in disguise for the 33-year-old Suarez, who had been sidelined with a knee injury since January.

The Uruguayan came off the bench in the 57th minute and did enough to leave an impression on Setien.

"The satisfaction of seeing Luis Suarez on the pitch again," Setien responded when asked what he would take away from the game.

"On top of that, there's the performance he gave us in his 30 or 35 minutes. He did four, five or six things to a very high level.

"He had quality actions... He's an important player... we will see how he is improving, but he has been spectacular."

Barca got off to a flying start when Chilean midfielder Vidal scored with a diving header in the second minute, while Danish international Braithwaite registered his first goal for the club later in the first half.

Alba added a third goal in the 79th minute after latching on to a through-ball from Messi, who had also set up Braithwaite's goal with a header.

The Argentine then completed the scoring with a deflected strike in stoppage time, netting 20 league goals for the 12th season in a row.

"The sensations are very positive considering we had spent so long without playing... I am very satisfied," Setien said.

"It is a good start to face this sprint of 10 games left. I have good feelings in general."

Added left-back Alba: "We controlled the game and it was a great performance after not competing for three months.

"We now have 10 must-win games and we are really looking forward to them."

Setien also praised Braithwaite, who joined Barca in February after the club were given permission to sign outside the transfer window due to injuries.

"Braithwaite was excellent, he has adapted very well... and was always doing the right thing," the 61-year-old said.

"He scored and worked very hard, and you have to congratulate him because it's not easy to arrive in a team like this and play so well."

The game was played behind closed doors to prevent further spread of the coronavirus, but a fan wearing a Messi Argentina shirt somehow made it on to the pitch, only to be swiftly taken away by security guards.

Last night, Atletico Madrid drew 1-1 with hosts Athletic Bilbao, with Diego Costa cancelling out Iker Muniain's goal.

Football