Valverde defends Suarez amid Champions League goal drought

BARCELONA, SPAIN - MARCH 13: Luis Suarez of Barcelona reacts during the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 Second Leg match between FC Barcelona and Olympique Lyonnais at Nou Camp on March 13, 2019 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

Ernesto Valverde rose to Luis Suarez’s defence after he once again failed to score in the Champions League during Barcelona’s 5-1 win over Lyon.

The former Liverpool striker has now gone an incredible 343 days since last finding the net in a 4-1 win over AS Roma during last season’s quarter-finals.

Even back then, Suarez had only scored once in Barcelona’s 10 Champions League games before they went crashing out to Roma following an unbelievable 3-0 second leg defeat in Italy.

Despite his dry spell in front of goal, however, Suarez has still chipped in eight assists in his last 16 Champions League games across the past two seasons.

The 32-year-old even won a penalty and set-up Philippe Coutinho during Barcelona’s 5-1 win over Lyon in Wednesday’s second leg of their last-16 tie.

Therefore, Blaugrana boss Valverde isn’t particularly worried over Suarez’s statistics in the competition as his performances remain as solid as ever.

“Tomorrow people will reel off the statistic about him not having scored but that does not take into account the way he played,” said Valverde, according to Daily Mail.

“He doesn’t take the penalty that he wins and he passes to Coutinho for the goal. His contribution is always huge.”

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The Spanish coach also heaped praise on another former Liverpool star in Coutinho, who found the net for Barcelona amid growing speculation over his future at the club.

The Brazilian playmaker only arrived at Camp Nou last year in a €142m deal, but has struggled to deliver consistently ever since.

“It was an important game for Coutinho because of what it meant for the club,” said Valverde.

“He has had some difficult moments in some games but he has responded well in other games and we hope he will give much more between now and the end of the season.”

Coutinho has managed nine goals and five assists in 40 appearances for Barcelona in all competitions this season.

Lionel Messi (twice), Gerard Pique and Ousmane Dembele were also on target for Valverde’s side on Wednesday.

The Catalan giants will now return their attention to La Liga, where a trip to Real Betis awaits them on Sunday.

BARCELONA, SPAIN – MARCH 13: Philippe Coutinho of Barcelona celebrates as he scores his team’s second goal with Luis Suarez and team mates during the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 Second Leg match between FC Barcelona and Olympique Lyonnais at Nou Camp on March 13, 2019 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

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