Barcelona boss: Embattled Luis Suarez still 'getting up to speed'

BARCELONA -- Ernesto Valverde has backed under-fire Barcelona striker Luis Suarez to deliver when it matters.

The league season has not yet begun in Spain but Suarez's form has already been called into question following a low-key performance in Barca's Spanish Super Cup win over Sevilla on Sunday.

Suarez, 31, registered 31 goals last term but also suffered a number of dry spells and there have been claims that his best years are now behind him.

"Luis is fine," Valverde said in a news conference after Barcelona's 3-0 win against Boca Juniors on Wednesday. "He's only just coming back from his [post-World Cup] break, so he's gradually getting up to speed, but he looks good."

Asked for his opinion on the debate about Suarez's form, the coach added: "He was criticised at the start of last season, too, because he was struggling to score goals regularly. But when he starts [scoring] he doesn't stop.

"Luis is a goalscorer, he's aggressive in the area... We know what he gives us. Regardless of his success [in front of goal], the fight is always there. He has that. Goals are a question of patience and perseverance."

Suarez played the final 30 minutes against Boca in the Joan Gamper trophy match, setting up the third goal for Rafinha following first-half strikes from Malcom and Lionel Messi at Camp Nou.

La Liga football returns on Saturday when Barca host Alaves and Valverde is looking forward to getting started.

"It was a little different [the game against Boca], coming after the Super Cup and with one eye on the start of La Liga," Valverde said. "With it being in the middle, we lost rhythm at some points, but we ended the game feeling good. Friendlies aren't the same as competitive games, though, and on Saturday the gunfire starts again."

Barca introduced a squad of 24 players before the win against their Argentine opponents on Wednesday, as well as two youth team players, but there is expected to be some streamlining before the transfer window closes.

Goalscorer Rafinha, who has impressed in preseason, is one player who could leave, although Valverde stressed that's not a decision which lies with him.

"That's not a question for me," he said when asked if the Spanish-Brazilian midfielder could be sold before the start of September. "I am delighted with him, he's playing well and I am counting on him being in the team.

"But I don't know what will happen between now and Aug. 31. We are all waiting to see what happens, even me. In fact, I'm the person most looking forward to the window shutting because then I'll know what my squad will be [for the season]."