Barcelona coach Luis Enrique has challenged Luis Suarez to take on a leadership role in the absence of Lionel Messi.
Suarez has six goals in 10 matches for the Spanish and European champions this season and his role in attack will be increasingly pivotal over the coming weeks as Messi endures a spell on the sidelines with knee ligament damage.
The Uruguayan opened his account this season in August’s thrilling 5-4 UEFA Super Cup victory over Sevilla, who host Barca on Saturday.
“He has always performed for us, even when the stats might have indicated otherwise,” Luis Enrique said of Suarez at a pre-match press conference.
“For us he is a key player, vital for his character and his leadership. He is fundamental.”
Messi heads a lengthy injury list featuring fellow Camp Nou talisman Andres Iniesta, but Luis Enrique is confident his squad can cope with the strain.
“It’s a situation that comes about and it happens to all teams at some point,” he said of the injury problems.
“It does not matter what happens, we will still battle and be united.
“Over the season it is the squad that wins, even though we do have the best player in the world [in] Leo Messi.
“I have the utmost confidence in my squad.”