Barcelona striker Luis Suarez must adapt to take pressure off Lionel Messi

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Barcelona will be looking to make it two wins out of two when they travel to Real Valladolid on Sunday.

The La Liga champion started with a victory at home to Deportivo Alaves while Valladolid came away from Girona with a 0-0 draw.

Here are a few talking points ahead of the encounter.

SAME OLD MESSI

Despite Cristiano Ronaldo‘s move from Real Madrid to Juventus in the summer, Lionel Messi is ensuring La Liga still has plenty of star quality on display, getting off to a flying start in a 3-0 win over Alaves last week.

Don’t let the scoreline fool you though, it wasn’t the most comfortable victory for the Spanish champions at the Camp Nou. The visitors did a good job resisting the hosts for over an hour. However, with his team needing inspiration, Messi stepped up and delivered right on cue.

After already striking the woodwork with a previous free-kick, he cleverly put one away in the 64th minute, drilling it under the wall along the deck. That goal broke Alaves’ resolve and Barca went on to add a bit of shine to the result in closing stages with Messi scoring his second in stoppage time after Philippe Coutinho also found the target.

“Finding a way to stop Messi is practically impossible,” said Valladolid coach Sergio Gonzalez.

“We will try to ensure that he touches the ball as little as possible. That is great in theory, but the important thing is to stay focused.”

Messi also led the way for chances created in that opening fixture, registering five in total. Some speculated with Ronaldo gone, the Argentine may take his foot off the gas a bit. Not a chance.

Magic: Leo Messi.

Magic: Leo Messi.

SUAREZ NEEDS TO ADAPT

There’s no denying it. Luis Suarez’s form in front of goal has been in decline. After scoring a remarkable 40 goals in 35 La Liga appearances in his first full season with Barcelona – outscoring Messi and Ronaldo in the process – the Uruguayan has steadily dropped off, enduring a few uncharacteristic droughts.

The former Liverpool striker scored 29 league goals in the following season before racking up 25 last term. These aren’t poor numbers by any stretch of the imagination. In total, Suarez has scored 152 goals and provided 77 assists in 200 appearances for the club – a more than healthy return.

He has started to go through spells where he can seem a bit sluggish though. Age definitely factors into the equation. The 31-year-old can no longer count on the bursts of acceleration he has relied on in the past.

He still has plenty to offer the team but to ensure he arrests this slide in terms of goalscoring, he has to curtail his desire to be involved in attacks and concentrate more on his positioning inside the area to finish them off.

He only has to look at the likes of Messi and Ronaldo (31 and 33 years old respectively), delivering the goods year after year, sometimes even raising the bar, as impossible as it would seem. Their ability to adapt is what feeds their sustained reign at the top and separates them from the second tier of superstars.

Luis Suarez

Luis Suarez

RINGING THE CHANGES

Ahead of the clash against newly promoted Real Vallodolid, Ernesto Valverde will be considering a host of changes to bed new players into the team and allow some of those returning late from the World Cup to enjoy some time on the pitch as well.

It could be the perfect opportunity to hand new centre-back Clement Lenglet his competitive debut. In midfield, Valverde may be tempted to offer Arthur or Arturo Vidal a full La Liga debut with Sergi Roberto moved to right-back in place of Nelson Semedo.

Reports suggest the Barca boss has been keen on playing Roberto in his preferred midfield role this season and duly started him in a trio alongside Sergio Busquets and Ivan Rakitic against Alaves.

However, the ploy did not produce the desired results and after a poor first half, Roberto returned to his right-back slot as Semedo was substituted for Coutinho who went into midfield.

Sergi Roberto

Sergi Roberto

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Live Barcelona Blog: Arturo Vidal sets sights on Champions League

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Hello Barcelona fans!

With the La Liga season underway and the transfer window deadline looming in Spain (August 31), there is no shortage of news coming out from the Camp Nou.

As ever, get in touch with us throughout the day on Twitter and Facebook.

9:12pm – Vidal sets sights on Champions League

Arturo Vidal has yet to win the Champions League in his career, and European club football’s biggest trophy is the target for this season, the new Barcelona man says.

The Chilean was on the losing side during Barca’s last triumph in Europe, when they beat Vidal’s Juventus in the 2015 final, and the midfielder was subsequently knocked out with Bayern Munich by Real Madrid in each of the last two seasons.

Vidal says this season is about finally winning the famous trophy – read more here.

0806 Vidal

2pm – Messi’s Argentina future still unclear

Lionel Messi is reportedly still weighing up his international future with Argentina, according to Marca.

The Barcelona icon, who is set to miss La Albiceleste’s next four friendly matches, is waiting to see what lies in store for the national team moving forward following a turbulent World Cup campaign.

Read more, here.

It was a difficult World Cup campaign for Lionel Messi.

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Barcelona's Arturo Vidal looks to put behind European disappointment with Juventus and Bayern Munich

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Vidal was shown a red card against Real Madrid during a Champions League tie.

New Barcelona midfielder Arturo Vidal has set his sights on winning the Champions League after experiencing disappointment in the competition during his spells with Juventus and Bayern Munich.

The Chilean was on the losing side when Barcelona beat Juventus in the 2015 final, but it’s his losses with Bayern to Real Madrid the last two seasons that truly rankle.

Bayern lost in the quarter-finals in 2016-17, and in the semi-finals last year, and on both occasions there was an element of controversy, with the Bundesliga giants feeling that key refereeing decisions went against them.

“My favourite title is the Champions League,” Vidal told Mundo Deportivo.

“I know Barcelona have won it on other occasions but I want to win it now – I want to win it all.”

The midfielder added: “With VAR, Bayern would have two more Champions Leagues.”

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