Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 23 September 2014

Luis Suarez is back on big stage with Barca bow

Barcelona 6 - Leon 0

Look who's back: Barcelona's Luis Suarez fights for the ball against Leon's Luis Antonio Delgadot and Jonny Magallon

Luis Suarez came off the bench to make his first appearance for Barcelona in a 6-0 thrashing of Leon in last night's friendly match at the Nou Camp.

Thirty one days after he signed for the club, Suarez ran out on the pitch to great applause as he was finally unveiled as a Barcelona player in the pre-match build-up.

The 27-year-old, who was cleared to make his debut in the friendly by the Court of Arbitration for Sport, despite currently serving a four-month ban for biting Italy defender Giorgio Chiellini during the World Cup, was named on the bench.

Suarez is not permitted to take part in a competitive match until October 26, when Barca face Real Madrid at the Bernabeu in the first Clasico of the season.

However, the sanctions against the striker were relaxed so he is not banned from friendly games, training, promotional activities and administrative matters.

As expected, Barcelona dominated the match and were four goals to the good thanks to Lionel Messi's third minute opener, a first-half brace by Neymar and Munir El Haddadi's 55th-minute effort by the time Suarez was introduced in the 77th minute.

The £75million-man replaced Rafina to a huge ovation and no sooner had he joined the action another goal was added, but it was not from the boot of the Uruguay striker but a second for El Haddadi.

Sandro then wrapped up the win with the sixth goal in the 90th minute.

Meanwhile, Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti admits he does not know whether or not Angel di Maria wants to leave the European champions but is ready to play the Argentina winger in today's Spanish Supercopa first leg against Atletico Madrid.

Di Maria's future has been the source of much speculation this summer, especially with Madrid having spent around £85million to bring in World Cup stars James Rodriguez and Toni Kroos to bolster their midfield options.

Manchester United have regularly been linked with a big-money move for the 26-year-old, and fresh media reports suggested the Red Devils were willing to spend up to £100million on transfer fee and wages to take Di Maria to Old Trafford.

Ancelotti was again asked about the former Benfica forward's future yesterday ahead of the derby with Atletico, but, not for the first time, the Italian was giving little away.

He said: "I don't want to enter into this theme so I don't lose focus on tomorrow's game. Di Maria is available like all the others. He may or may not start the game and has opportunities, but like everyone else.

"What I won't do is put out the same team in both legs. One team will play tomorrow and on Friday I will change it a little.

"I don't know what Di Maria has decided. But I know that he's training and that he could help us in tomorrow's match. Until August 31 it will continue the same way and after that everything will be cleared up and things will return to normal."

Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone has once again played down his side's chances of retaining their Primera Division title.

Simeone said: "We have four different players. It's a major change, because their characteristics are not the same.

"Right now our reality is to look at Sevilla, Valencia, Athletic (Bilbao). They are the teams with whom we will try to fight for a place in the Champions League."

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