Barcelona manager Luis Enrique has hailed the unique qualities of Luis Suarez after another week in which the prolific goal-scorer dominated the headlines.
The Uruguay forward scored twice as Barca came from behind to beat Atletico Madrid 2-1 in Tuesday’s Champions League quarter-final first leg.
However, Suarez was also lucky to escape a red card for kicking out at Juanfran and striking Filipe Luis in the face during the same game.
The Barca player is suspended for Saturday’s trip to Real Sociedad and Luis Enrique’s pre-match news conference was dominated by questions about the 29-year-old.
“I love the type of player that Luis Suarez is, there’s no other striker in the world like him,” the coach said on Friday.
“Only defenders are allowed to hit players. If a striker suddenly does it then people are more bothered.
“Luis is doing very well, he’s a vital player for us, not just in a footballing sense but because of the character he has,” added Luis Enrique.
Suarez was serving a ban for biting Italy defender Giorgio Chiellini at the 2014 World Cup when he signed for Barcelona from Liverpool for 81 million euros ($92.06 million) in August 2014 and could not make his debut until October of that year.
This week he was involved in a heated exchange of words with former agent Daniel Fonseca who said in a television interview in Uruguay that Suarez “has psychological problems”.
The striker is La Liga leaders Barca’s top scorer this season with 45 goals in all competitions.
“Luis Suarez is a very intelligent guy. When he arrived here he knew he’d be in the eye of the storm for anything he did,” added Luis Enrique.
Barca are six points clear of second-placed Atletico Madrid ahead of the game at Sociedad where they have not won since 2007.
“It’s a very difficult trip for us, the most difficult place to go for us in the league,” said Luis Enrique who is also without injured trio Aleix Vidal, Jeremy Mathieu and Sandro Ramirez.
Spain forward Munir El Haddadi, 20, is expected to take Suarez’s place up front.
“The absence of Suarez won’t condition our tactics at all, I have an incredible squad,” said Luis Enrique.