By Iain Rogers
MADRID (Reuters) – Barcelona forward Luis Suarez turned 29 on Sunday confident he is in the best form of his career before Athletic Bilbao visit in the second leg of their King’s Cup quarter-final tie on Wednesday.
The combative Uruguay international was suspended for Barca’s last two Cup games for his part in a fracas after the last 16, first leg against Espanyol but his enforced absence has done little to tarnish his impressive statistics for the Spanish and European champions in 2015-16.
Top scorer in La Liga with 18 goals in 19 appearances, including two at Real Madrid in November’s 4-0 ‘Clasico’ victory, Suarez has five in five Champions League games and struck twice in Barca’s 3-0 win over River Plate in last month’s Club World Cup final.
He has 29 goals in 29 matches in all competitions and has come a long way since he was banned and widely condemned for biting Italy defender Giorgio Chiellini at the 2014 World Cup finals in Brazil.
Suarez is a key part of Barca’s formidable South American attacking trident alongside Argentina captain Lionel Messi and Brazil forward Neymar.
Neymar missed Saturday’s 2-1 La Liga win at Malaga, which lifted Barca into top spot, with a muscle complaint and remains a doubt for Wednesday’s game at the Nou Camp, when the Cup holders will be defending a 2-1 advantage from the first leg in Bilbao.
“Both on and off the pitch we get on marvelously and nobody thinks they are better than the other which is the most important thing,” Suarez said on Barca’s website (www.fcbarcelona.es) on Saturday.
“We are more focused on the collective and the group,” he added.
“People can see that we take pleasure from the good form each of us is in and we are delighted with every goal or assist for the good of the team.”
Barca, chasing a fourth domestic Cup triumph in eight years, have beaten Bilbao three times in the final since 2009, including last season, and are the record winners with 27, four more than the Basques.
Atletico Madrid drew 0-0 at Celta Vigo in their quarter-final first leg, while Gary Neville’s Valencia had to come from behind to rescue a 1-1 draw at home to Las Palmas.
Atletico host Celta on Wednesday and Valencia play at Las Palmas on Thursday, when Sevilla take a 2-0 lead to second division Mirandes.
(Editing by Ed Osmond)