There was great anticipation around the Camp Nou heading into the this season. Barcelona’s summer signing of Luis Suarez from Liverpool meant the Catalan club had a potential starting eleven which could boast the talents of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Suarez all at the front of its attack. The La Liga side’s ‘Big Three’ would be one of the most feared offensive forces in world soccer.
Suarez had to wait to make his Barcelona debut while he served the remainder of his FIFA-imposed four-month ban for biting Italy’s Giorgio Chiellini during the World Cup. But as luck would have it, the Uruguayan striker made his first La Liga start for La Blaugrana against Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Prior to that contest, Messi and Neymar had been combining at will and were scoring for fun while Barcelona surged to an early four-point advantage over their Madrid rivals in the La Liga standings.
Suarez’s inclusion to the starting eleven against Real Madrid in late October paid off in the opening minutes as the Uruguayan combined with Neymar to open the scoring at the Bernabeu. He would later set up Messi for a clear chance but the Argentinian failed to capitalize.
Barcelona would go on to lose the match and questions were immediately raised by about the ability of Suarez to adapt to playing with his new teammates. Those rumblings continued as the Uruguay international failed to find the back of the net, Barcelona stumbled and Real Madrid caught fire by going on a 22-match winning streak in all competitions.
Suarez would eventually score his first league goal – just before Barcelona’s winter break – against Cordoba on December 20th. Prior to that contest, the Uruguayan striker was being called-out for not finishing his chances, even though he had assisted on five goals in La Liga.
When Barcelona returned from the winter break they suffered a disappointing 1-0 defeat to Real Sociedad which saw the storm clouds gather over the Camp Nou. Manager Luis Enrique came under-fire for his team selection, tactics and man-management.
But since that time the team has pulled together and most notably the ‘Big Three’ have really kicked into high gear.
What followed has been wins over Elche (two in the Copa del Rey), Atletico Madrid and Deportivo by a combined score of 16-1; with Barcelona’s 3-1 defeat over the reigning La Liga champions undoubtedly being their best team performance of the season.
During that match, the ‘Big Three’ were unplayable. Neymar put the club ahead after 12 minutes before Suarez doubled the advantage just before halftime. Then, after a penalty had pulled Atletico back into the match at 2-1, Messi finished off the game with a close-range finish to send the Spanish champions home with a defeat.
During the first leg of the Copa del Rey Round 16 against Elche, the ‘Big Three’ put the tie away by combining for four goals and three assists in a 5-0 victory; they were rested a few days later while their Barcelona teammates closed the tie out with a 4-0 win.
This weekend, Messi scored a hat-trick against Deportivo, with Suarez assisting one of the Argentine’s goals.
Since the setback against Real Sociedad, the interplay between the three South Americans has been mesmerizing and Barcelona have been re-energized in their pursuit of Real Madrid. They trail the league-leaders by only a single point with half the La Liga season still remaining – although Madrid still have a game in hand over the Catalan club.
Messi, Neymar and Suarez have shown in the past that they can individually carry a team to victory. But all three have also shown a propensity to be unselfish team players who take great pride in seeing their teammates shine.
It appears Barcelona’s ‘Big Three’ have reached an understanding of each other’s game and are firing on all cylinders.
The La Liga race should be very interesting from now until the end of the season.
Programming note: Barcelona plays Atletico Madrid in the first leg of the Copa del Rey quarter-final on Wednesday at 4pm ET. Soccer fans in the US can watch the game live on beIN SPORTS, beIN SPORTS Espańol and DishWorld.
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