Barcelona have been rocked by the news Luis Suarez is facing four months on the sidelines.
The Uruguay striker has undergone meniscus surgery on his right knee, meaning he will miss most of the rest of this season.
Suarez’s absence represents a huge blow for Barca boss Ernesto Valverde, whose future is the subject of mounting speculation following this week’s 3-2 defeat to Atletico Madrid in the semi-finals of the Supercopa de Espana.
Here, we look at some of the key games the 32-year-old will miss.
Champions League last-16 v Napoli (February 25 & March 18)
Despite being the dominant force in Spain over the past decade, Barca’s failure to win Europe’s biggest prize since 2015 is a blot upon golden era. The fact bitter rival Real Madrid hoisted the big trophy in each of the following three years added ample irritation.
Stunning knockout stage collapses at the hands of Roma and Liverpool in each of the past two seasons do much to explain the pressure Valverde finds himself under and he must negotiate this double-header against an inconsistent but dangerous Napoli, along with any other subsequent knockout ties without his main centre forward.
Real Madrid v Barcelona (March 1)
Suarez enjoys few things more than facing up to Barca’s sworn enemies. He boasts 11 goals in 16 Clasicos and has only scored more frequently against Valencia and Norwich City (both 12) in his career. On his debut in 2014, Barca lost 3-1 at Madrid but have not tasted defeat in LaLiga at the Santiago Bernabeu since.
Uruguay’s opening World Cup qualifiers (March 26 & March 31)
The 2022 World Cup is Suarez’s last realistic tilt at football’s biggest prize as the generation of Edinson Cavani, Diego Godin and the rest move towards the end of their esteemed Uruguay careers. A home game against Chile and a trip to Ecuador begin their campaign in the marathon South American qualification section.
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