Lionel Messi was left all alone. With Neymar departed in a big-money move to Paris Saint-Germain, summer signing Ousmane Dembele taking time to settle and then injured and Luis Suarez off form, it was down to the Argentine to provide the spark and score the goals for Barcelona.
Suarez was there, but not really there. Chances came and went for the Uruguayan and Barca fans grew frustrated as very few of those ended up in the back of the net – just three in 14 matches to be precise.
A knee injury in the opening league game against Betis had hindered his progress, while he probably returned too quickly as well in his eagerness to help Uruguay seal qualification for this summer’s World Cup.
In the meantime, the departure of Neymar probably hit Suarez the hardest, while the former Liverpool striker was also forced to adapt to a new position and formation following the arrival of Ernesto Valverde as coach.
His first coach at Uruguayan club Nacional, Martin Lasarte, told Goal that he believed the striker would be back to his best before long, while Valverde also backed his player. “The more he misses, the better!” he said in October. “The important thing is he is getting into the right positions. The goals will come.”
And they have. Suarez’s hat-trick in Barca’s 6-1 win over Girona at Camp Nou on Saturday means he has now netted 20 in his last 22 games for the Catalan club, including doubles against Leganes, Deportivo La Coruna, Real Sociedad and Betis.
It is a scoring streak that has helped Barca advance to the final of the Copa del Rey for the fourth season in a row, while keeping up their unbeaten run in La Liga, which now stands at 25 matches.
Now in his fourth season at Camp Nou, Suarez surpassed the 100-goal mark in La Liga recently too and has 144 in 183 in all competitions since signing from Liverpool in the summer of 2014.