Controversial Uruguayan striker Luis Suarez will probably play his first game for Barcelona in a friendly on Monday, coach Luis Enrique said Sunday, despite the player's competitive ban for biting a World Cup opponent.
Suarez, who is banned from competitive matches until October 25 for biting Italy's Giorgio Chiellini, trained with Barcelona on Sunday ahead of Monday's Joan Gamper Trophy, the traditional curtain-raiser to Barca's season, against Mexican side Leon. "I would like him to be able to play for a few minutes tomorrow," Enrique told a news conference after Sunday's training. "Not many, because he has not played for some time, but he has worked very well when training on his own."
Barcelona bought Suarez for a reported 95 million euros (£75 million, $127 million) from Liverpool last month. On Thursday, the Court of Arbitration for Sport relaxed his ban, allowing him to train and play in unofficial matches, but upheld his four-month exclusion from competitive games and his nine-match international suspension. Suarez will be available to play in competitive matches from Saturday, October 25, meaning his official debut could come in the first Clasico of the Spanish league campaign against Real Madrid.
Luis Enrique, a former Barcelona player who replaced Gerard Martino after he stepped down at the end of last season following a trophyless campaign, insisted on Sunday Suarez's absence at the start of the season "does not harm us at all. The squad is solid and strong enough to face the first matches of the league."
Suarez bit Chiellini on June 24 in a 1-0 win over Italy. It was the third time in his career he had been found guilty of biting an opponent. After his first training session with Barcelona on Friday, Suarez told the club website: "I'm paying for a mistake I made and one I have apologised for, but I have to forget about all this."