Suarez to return in clasico after biting ban
BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Luis Suarez's long wait is almost over. The much-maligned forward will play his first minutes for Barcelona on Saturday against Real Madrid after completing his ban for biting an opponent four months ago at the World Cup.
''(Suarez) will have some minutes for sure, how many is the million-dollar question,'' Barcelona coach Luis Enrique said on Friday, after having wavered on the question for most of the week in the run-up to the clasico.
''It's an important occasion for him, to play against Madrid, and make his official incorporation with the team.''
Suarez hasn't played an official match since biting Italy's Giorgio Chiellini in June. That earned him his third multi-game suspension for sinking his teeth into an opposing player after also biting rivals while playing for former clubs Ajax in 2010 and Liverpool in 2013.
Undeterred by his latest act of gross misconduct, Barcelona spent 97 million euros (then $130 million) to sign the Premier League's top scorer from last season.
Suarez has been receiving therapy and said at his presentation with Barcelona in August that his biting days are behind him. He repeated that pledge on Friday.
''I think all the bad things I have been through are in the past,'' Suarez told The Guardian newspaper. ''I believe I am on the right path now, dealing with the people who can help me, the right kind of people.
In the interview Suarez called all three biting incidents the result of a sudden ''impulse.''
''Everyone has different ways of defending themselves. In my case, the pressure and tension came out in that way. There are other players who react by breaking someone's leg, or smashing someone's nose across their face. What happened with Chiellini is seen as worse. I understand why biting is seen so badly.''
The 27-year-old Suarez finishes his ban for his club on Saturday, just in time for Barcelona's visit to Madrid in the Spanish league. He has played a handful of friendlies for Barcelona and Uruguay in the meantime, and is still banned from playing for Uruguay in the Copa America and some World Cup qualifiers next year.
Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti said he was pleased Suarez would return to the pitch, even if it will be at his Santiago Bernabeu Stadium and adding to a formidable attack already featuring Lionel Messi and Neymar.
''He is a fantastic player,'' Ancelotti said. ''For football and the league it is great news he is back.''
Luis Enrique said he was not worried about a possible provocation of Suarez by Madrid defender Pepe, who is also known for his aggressive outbursts, including kicking Getafe's Javier Casquero repeatedly in 2009 and being sent off for a headbutt at the World Cup this summer.
''Football is a wonderful sport and there is contact, permitted contact, and a referee whose job it is to judge what takes place,'' the former Barcelona and Madrid player said. ''We will try for our players to show their best sides. They are grown-ups and they all know one another.''
Luis Enrique also said that holding midfielder Sergio Busquets was fit after a nagging pelvic injury sidelined him for the past two matches.
Ancelotti, for his part, said Spain defender Sergio Ramos was also fit after missing four games for club and country and would start alongside Pepe.
Gareth Bale did not make Madrid's squad as he recovers from a muscle injury.
Besides Suarez's highly anticipated debut, Messi will be seeking the one goal he needs to equal the league's all-time leading scoring mark of 251 goals.