Barcelona boss Valverde hopes Suarez goal helps him come out of 'shadows'

MADRID -- Barcelona manager Ernesto Valverde hopes Luis Suarez's late equaliser against Atletico Madrid on Saturday can kickstart the Uruguayan international's season.

Suarez had scored just twice in eight appearances going into the 1-1 draw with Atleti at the Wanda Metropolitano and his form has come in for criticism.

In addition, there remains uncertainty over his fitness. Barca have denied reports which surfaced suggesting the striker needs to have immediate surgery on a cyst on his knee, but Valverde has admitted he's had a small problem since preseason.

"I thought he looked good, regardless of the goal," Valverde said in a news conference after Suarez's third goal of the campaign rescued the Catalan side's unbeaten start with an 82nd-minute header.

"Obviously strikers live for goals and the confidence of a player can change [with goals]. But when they score it seems as if everything is going for them and if [they're] not [scoring] then they're left in the shadows.

"In this case, [Suarez] scored a goal, he had a great chance after... But even before then, in the first half, he moved well around the area and we know how terrible the traffic was in their box with their players -- and ours, as well.

"The work he does for us is important and I hope it gives him confidence and he goes on a good scoring run."

Suarez, who has now notched 124 goals since moving to Camp Nou in 2014, celebrated his goal by cupping his ear in front of the Atletico supporters, but Valverde knocked back the idea that the celebration was disrespectful.

"I don't think my players are unsporting," the coach said.

The draw keeps Barca five points clear at the top of the table -- Real Madrid have now moved into second place -- but Valverde felt a late second-half onslaught could have earned his side the win.

"It's a point to be valued against a great side in Atletico," Valverde added. "It was difficult to break through their lines close to the area, but in the second half the game opened up more. We were exposed, although we created chances, too.

"We do go back home satisfied, although also with the feeling we could have achieved a better result. But it was a great game, each team with their own style."

Barcelona could have snatched it at the death as they had a free kick 20 yards out, but Lionel Messi fired straight at goalkeeper Jan Oblak.

The Argentina international could have been forgiven for being below par given his midweek exploits in delivering his country to World Cup qualification, but Valverde was happy with his contribution.

"It's true that Leo had some wear and tear because of the tension of the matches he has had to play, but we know that he always responds in any situation,'' he added.

"He gave us a lot of effort and it was clear that when he got the ball, something good could happen for us.''

Information from Press Association Sport was used in this story.