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El CLASICO: Why this Barcelona victory was tribute to Luis Enrique's courage and steel

COMMENT: Four points clear at the top of the table and into the Champions League quarterfinals, Barcelona's sudden revival is a triumph for coach Luis Enrique.

Privately, Enrique will be delighted seeing Luis Suarez prove the El Clasico's matchwinner last night and will draw a special satisfaction from the manner of the Uruguayan's goal.

On the day Steven Gerrard was infamously sent off against Manchester United, Daniel Alves emulated the Liverpool captain, spotting Suarez on his run and finding him with a deep ball over the top. In one movement, the striker collected the pass before striking across Iker Casillas to put Barca 2-1 ahead.

It was a typical Suarez goal. A typical 'Liverpool goal' from last season. And it owed much to the steel of Enrique.

Just months ago, it was a matter of when, not if, Enrique would be sacked by Barca's president, Josep Maria Bartomeu. He'd almost come to blows with Lionel Messi at training and the Catalan press were full of 'IT'S HIM OR ME' headlines.

After the disaster of his AS Roma experience, for Enrique, who loved nothing more than backpacking around North Queensland's national parks before taking up coaching, his career appeared over. But he held his ground and, credit to Messi, was able to convince the Argentine that his plan for Barca's front three would succeed.

Now, with Suarez at the tip of an apex which has Messi and Neymar either side of him, their attacking structure is even more daunting. Teams had worked out how to defend against Barca with Messi playing centrally and Suarez out of position on a flank.

But now, as Real Madrid experienced last night, the La Masia style can be complemented with a deeper pass, taking advantage of Suarez's power and pace, spinning off the shoulder of the last defender.

And it'll only get better.

At times, Real defender Sergio Ramos couldn't live with the diving and darting of Suarez's running off the ball. Barca's midfield weren't always on the same wavelength - but that will happen in time. He's only been playing competitively with Barca for four months.

There's no way Barca would be in this position if Enrique had rolled over and left Messi in a central role. And for all the plaudits now being showered upon the Argentine, the humility it took for the Barca No10 to open his mind to Enrique's thinking also deserves special credit.

Like Suarez, Messi, by putting the club ahead of his ego, has benefited enormously from the rejigg.

As for the third of the triumvirate, Neymar, it's difficult to see how Gareth Bale can be branded 'selfish' by local press after the Brazilian's performance last night. There's absolutely no chance Suarez has ever made such a dummy run in his career as he did midway through the second-half.

Yes, Neymar beat several tackles and was in a decent central shooting position, but Suarez, who had been his wing-man for the entire run was completely in the clear. It wasn't the only time Neymar could be accused of glory hunting.

Enrique will have to get a grip of him - before Suarez or Messi does! At 2-1, blowing those sort of chances could have cost Barca the points.

So for Enrique, it's still a work in progress, but this is his team now. He's the leader and that time with Roma is now looking a blip in a potentially great career.

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Chris Beattie
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Chris Beattie

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