— Sports

Suárez to face old friend Messi with title in the balance

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) – Luis Suárez and Lionel Messi often spent time hanging out together at their neighboring homes on the Mediterranean coast when taking a break from scoring goals for Barcelona.

It will be less relaxing on Saturday when Suárez returns to Camp Nou with Atlético Madrid, aiming to inflict a significant blow on his former team’s title hopes in the Spanish league. Facing mounting debts and desperate to reduce payroll, Barcelona sold the 34-year-old Suárez to Atlético on the cheap at the start of the season.

The deal, which could reach 6 million euros ($7 million), proved a steal for Atlético. While not as mobile as he once was, Suárez’s world-class finishing touch gave Atlético coach Diego Simeone the scorer he had failed to find since Antoine Griezmann swapped clubs for Barcelona.

Suárez missed the teams’ first meeting in November due to the coronavirus. Yannick Carrasco’s goal and smothering defense gave Atlético a 1-0 win that helped build a lead that it is still clinging to with four rounds left. Atlético plays third-place Barcelona a day before second-place Real Madrid hosts fourth-place Sevilla on a weekend that promises to shake up the closest title fight in years.

Atlético is two points ahead of Madrid and Barcelona, while Sevilla is four points behind.

Suárez departed Barcelona as its third-highest scorer with 198 goals, behind César Rodríguez (232) and Messi (670). He helped Barcelona win 13 titles after arriving in 2014 from Liverpool, including four Spanish league trophies and the Champions League in 2015.

Messi complained publicly after Barcelona got rid of Suárez, who had wanted to stay.

Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman lots to worry about.

“It will be strange for (Suárez) and my players. But we are professionals, and each of them will give it their all,” said Koeman, suspended for the match. “We will have to focus on him and the rest of his team that plays behind him. We must think about how we must pressure them to disrupt their attack.” Atlético also has an opposition player on its mind as Messi looks to add to his league-leading 28 goals this season.

Molly Aronson

I'm an award-winning blogger who enjoys all things creative but is especially passionate about lifestyle design. I blog over at mehlogy.com I love that I get to share my passion for healthy living, fashion, fitness, and travel with readers from all over the world.

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