Neymar also set up Barcelona’s other goal on the night for Luis Suarez as the defending champions moved to within a point of sealing their place in the last 16. Suarez and Neymar have now combined for 18 of Barcelona’s last 21 goals since four-time FIFA World Player of the Year Lionel Messi suffered knee ligament damage nearly six weeks ago.
Barcelona remain hopeful Messi could be fit to face Real Madrid in just over two weeks’ time. But Neymar admitted he is enjoying sharing the responsibility of leading the Catalans along with Suarez in Messi’s absence.
“It is clear we miss Messi, but I am in the form of my life and I hope to continue like this,” he told beIN Sports.
Neymar opened the scoring from the penalty spot before teeing up Suarez to double the advantage on the hour mark. The Uruguayan then returned the favour as his unselfish pass presented Neymar with an open goal for his second of the night and 11th of the season seven minutes from time.
“Half the goal belongs to Suarez. He is a star and in great form.”
The South American duo’s hot streak of late has wiped away early season fears of Barcelona’s lack of killer instinct in front of goal.
Luis Enrique’s faith in superstars
However, coach Luis Enrique insisted he never doubted his star forward line would come good.
“We never doubted we would get our killer touch back given the profile of the players we have up front,” he said. “Given their quality and the chances the team creates, it was never in doubt.”
Victory extends Barcelona’s advantage at the top of Group E as they lead second-placed Roma by five points with two games remaining. The Italians visit the Camp Nou in three weeks’ time and Barcelona may not even need a point to qualify if Bayer Leverkusen fail to win away at BATE.
“Our intention is to win the group,” added Enrique. “We are playing against Roma and we will try to win the game as Barca do in every match.”
The one setback of the evening for the hosts was another injury to a midfield player as Ivan Rakitic hobbled off after 20 minutes. Tests revealed a minor tear in his right calf which will keep him out of Sunday’s clash at home to Villarreal.
However, Enrique refused to hazard a guess as to whether the Croatian would be fit to face Madrid.
“We are waiting on news from the doctors, but he will definitely miss the next game. The only thing that is concerning me at the moment is Villarreal. That is the only game I am thinking about.”