By Richard Martin
(Reuters) - Barcelona said Luis Suarez had reached the end of his cycle when they let him join Atletico Madrid last summer, yet the Uruguayan continues to show he has plenty to offer while the Catalans' forwards, aside from Lionel Messi, struggle for goals.
Suarez scored for the fifth time in five games to fire Atletico to a 3-1 win over Valencia on Sunday which put them seven points clear at the top of the standings and 10 points ahead of third-placed Barca with a game in hand.
The Catalans, meanwhile, had to call upon the help of midfielders Frenkie de Jong and Riqui Puig to scrape past Elche 2-0 while Messi was suspended.
Suarez is joint-top scorer in the league with 12 strikes from 14 starts, more than the combined total of the three Barca forwards who lined up against Elche.
Antoine Griezmann is Barca's second top scorer behind Messi with a measly five goals from 16 starts, while Martin Braithwaite has two goals in nine league starts and Ousmane Dembele has two from eight.
Suarez is not only more prolific than his former team mates, he is also far more lively: he has an average of three shots per league game according to Opta, while Griezmann has 2.3, Braithwaite 1.1 and Dembele 1.5.
Messi, who was serving the final game of a two-match ban, is the most active of all five players with 5.9 shots per game but even he has scored fewer goals than his former strike partner and close friend Suarez despite starting two more games.
Koeman was less than complimentary of his forwards after the win over Elche, urging midfielders such as De Jong and Puig to keep contributing goals as "three forwards is not enough".
Koeman was happy enough to part with Suarez, who scored 198 goals in six seasons for Barca, when he was appointed by then president Josep Maria Bartomeu last August, calling the striker to inform him he was not in his plans.
But as the coach continues to criticise his side for failing to put away their many chances, he must be wondering how different things could be if he could count upon the Uruguayan's ruthless finishing.
(Reporting by Richard Martin; Editing by Christian Radnedge)