Barcelona coach Luis Enrique defended his decision to start Luis Suarez against Real Madrid after his team slumped to a 3-1 defeat at the Bernabeu.
Suarez made his competitive debut for Barcelona just 18 hours after his four-month suspension for biting Giorgio Chiellini at the World Cup came to an end.
But the former Liverpool striker was well marshalled by Real centre-backs Sergio Ramos and Pepe and had a quiet game before being replaced by Pedro in the second half. By that time, Pepe and Karim Benzema had already eased Real ahead in a match they had trailed until Cristiano Ronaldo cancelled out Neymar’s early strike with a 35th-minute penalty.
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Insisting he was right to throw Suarez into a Clasico cauldron, Enrique said: "I don’t regret that he started.
"He did more than I expected him to do and I substituted him for fitness reasons."
Rather than blaming the debutant for the defeat, the coach cited his team’s defensive errors.
"I was expecting a different type of game, not one in which we would be so unconvincing in defence," Enrique added. "We have to correct that because if we don’t we will really struggle – like we did today."
Suarez insisted he had been match-fit, telling reporters: "I felt really good. I have been training for a long time with this game in mind and so when the coach made the decision I was in the right shape to play.
"I’m very happy that I was able to play, it was a big relief and I’m very happy with the minutes I had. I have a bittersweet sensation because of the result but this team has picked itself up before many times.
"Everyone knows what the Clasico is like, the first few minutes are very difficult. We went from having little control in the first few minutes to taking the lead but they are very good on the counter-attack and they killed off the game."