Luis Enrique says Barcelona can cope without the suspended Luis Suarez at Real Sociedad on Saturday and will not be warning the Uruguay international to suppress his fiery temperament.
Suarez, set to miss the match at Anoeta due to yellow card accumulation, was in the spotlight for both the right and the wrong reasons on Tuesday.
The former Liverpool and Ajax star scored both goals as Barca came from behind to beat Atletico Madrid 2-1 in the first leg of the Champions League quarter-final at Camp Nou, but was perhaps fortunate to escape punishment after appearing to kick out at opposition defender Juanfran.
Luis Enrique was repeatedly questioned about the 29-year-old at his pre-match media conference on Friday.
The head coach refused to reveal who will start in place of Suarez in San Sebastian, but did offer a glowing endorsement of the incident-prone striker.
“I think he’s an intelligent player,” Luis Enrique said.
“He knows that he came to this club with a suspension from his national team. He knew he was always going to be in the eye of the storm with anything that happens. When we get to the end of the season players start to get hotter – and he has a very hot role in the team.
“Luis is Uruguayan, which means he does have a certain type of character. He’s a player who’s very strong, very tough and that’s something we need to make the most of. That’s something he’s been doing since he came to the team and that’s something I’m encouraging him to continue doing.”
Youngster Munir El Haddadi is in contention to join Lionel Messi and Neymar in the Barca forward line for the match against Sociedad, as the reigning champions seek to preserve or extend their six-point lead over second-placed Atletico in La Liga.
Whoever comes into the starting XI, Luis Enrique is confident the team will be equipped to cope without Suarez.
“It doesn’t affect me in anyway,” he said.
“He can’t play so what can I do? It means he gets a rest for the weekend and the rest of the team has to cover him and I know they will do.”