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Suarez absence finally felt as Barcelona fail to register a single shot on target

By Ben Hayward | Spanish Football Writer

Barcelona's perfect start to the season is officially over. The Catalans have still to concede a goal and remain unbeaten after six matches so far in 2014-15, but Luis Enrique's side failed to register a single shot on target at Malaga on Wednesday.

Hours earlier, Luis Suarez had hit his first two goals in Blaugrana colours in a friendly fixture specially organised against Indonesia's Under-19 team at the club's training ground.

"Good game with Barca B," the Uruguayan tweeted afterwards. "I'm grateful to the team and to the coach for the opportunity. Now to support my team-mates."

Still absent due to the biting ban he received at the World Cup, however, Suarez was unable to support his team-mates as he would have liked on Wednesday. And how he was missed in the side's most sterile showing in recent times.

Barca enjoyed most of the possession (70 per cent) on a poor pitch, but failed to truly trouble Malaga goalkeeper Carlos Kameni, with Lionel Messi and Andres Iniesta pushed back into deep positions from where they were unable to really do damage.

Messi, looking for his 400th career strike for club and country, came closest to scoring as he slid in at the far post in an attempt to poke home Jordi Alba's low cross, but the Argentine arrived a moment too late and was also unable to hit the target with a free kick in the first half.

Gerard Pique did force Kameni into a smart save with a header in the second period, but his effort looked to have come off his marker and, in any case, the referee had already blown for a foul.

Malaga's Weligton was fortunate to stay on the pitch in the final minutes after putting his arm around Messi's neck and pushing the Argentine to the ground. Amazingly, the referee gave only a yellow card.

Another Brazilian, Barca defender Douglas, had already departed by then following a disappointing debut which saw him with little to do at the back and less to offer in attack. Dani Alves, often criticised, was sorely missed as an offensive threat.

Unlike in previous games, Ivan Rakitic saw his influence restricted by a very physical and disciplined Malaga side. And Barca just seemed short of ideas, even when strikers Munir El Haddadi and Sandro came on late in the game.

"For us the key is to find Messi," Luis Enrique said afterwards. "If we find him, we are much more dangerous."

Of course. There will be days, however, when Messi is successfully stifled by the opposition. That is what happened here and on such nights, Suarez will be vital. The Uruguayan would have added another threat, a different dimension, and given the Malaga defenders much more to think about. He'll be back in a month and, if they play many more matches like Wednesday's, Barcelona will be very pleased to see him.

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