Valverde confident of Suarez pedigree

Barcelona’s Andres Iniesta, Gerard Pique and teammates celebrate their first goal scored by Sporting’s Sebastian Coates with an own goal during the Sporting CP vs FC Barcelona Champions League match, on Sept 27, 2017.
Barcelona’s Andres Iniesta, Gerard Pique and teammates celebrate their first goal scored by Sporting’s Sebastian Coates with an own goal during the Sporting CP vs FC Barcelona Champions League match, on Sept 27, 2017.PHOTO: REUTERS

LISBON • Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde insisted he was not concerned by his side's underwhelming performance in their 1-0 win over Sporting CP.

The Spanish giants laboured to a second straight Champions League win - and their eighth successive victory in all competitions - after Sebastian Coates' own goal gave them an unconvincing Group D win on Wednesday.

"Let people say whatever they want. I do not get bored if we win," Valverde said.

Barcelona were fortunate when Coates bundled into his own net under pressure from fellow Uruguay international Luis Suarez in the 49th minute.

Although the striker contributed to the winner, he has scored just two goals for Barcelona this term. He has yet to scale the heights of his previous three seasons, when he scored 125 goals in all competitions.

"We want Luis Suarez to play always, he's our striker," said Valverde. "I would worry if he did not go through on goal, but he's always there."

Barcelona have been in free-scoring mood this season, with 20 goals in six La Liga games, but they missed opportunities in the opening half in Lisbon.

Suarez wasted a simple chance in the 18th minute when he side-footed wide after Jordi Alba had been set free by Lionel Messi.

Messi, making his 593rd Barcelona appearance - tying for third with Carles Puyol on the club's all-time list, also headed a good opportunity straight at goalkeeper Rui Patricio.

Barcelona goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen made a save of his own to deny Bruno Fernandes .

Substitute Paulinho then wasted a late chance when he fired straight at Patricio.

Barcelona are top of group D with six points, three clear of Sporting and last season's finalists Juventus, who beat Olympiakos 2-0 in Turin.

Gonzalo Higuain had been benched for two consecutive matches after scoring just two goals this season but came on as a substitute to score and help set up the second for Mario Mandzukic.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 29, 2017, with the headline 'Valverde confident of Suarez pedigree'. Print Edition | Subscribe