Football

Atletico forward Joao Felix tipped for great season by Luis Suarez

Atletico teammate Suarez impressed with Portugal forward's bright start

Luis Suarez is confident his strike partner Joao Felix will have a sensational season for Atletico Madrid, with the Portugal starlet continuing his rich vein of form in the 4-0 rout of Cadiz yesterday morning (Singapore time).

Felix contributed just six goals and one assist in 27 La Liga games in his first season with Atletico, after joining from Benfica last year for a club record fee of 126 million euros (S$ 202m).

However, he has started this campaign with five goals and three assists in seven league matches, prompting veteran striker Suarez to give a glowing assessment of his 20-year-old teammate.

"He hasn't surprised me, because when he was at Benfica he had already shown what a class player he is at a very young age," Suarez told AS.

"It's not easy when you move abroad but in his first year, which was about settling in, he produced moments of real quality.

"This season, he's really starting to get the fans excited. He feels full of confidence and, if the rest of us give him the help and support he needs, he can be a match-winner.

"But we can't place all the responsibility on his shoulders. If we work as a team and everyone does his bit, that'll have a beneficial effect on him and everyone around him."

Felix put Atletico ahead in the eighth minute, heading a cross from Marcos Llorente into an unguarded net after Cadiz goalkeeper Jeremias Ledesma had fallen over as he tried to catch a long punt into the box.

Llorente doubled Atleti's advantage midway through the first half with a finish inside the near post. Suarez then combined with Felix to put Atletico further ahead in the 51st minute.

Felix made it 4-0 with a ruthless finish after a quick break in added time, netting a double for the third time in four matches in all competitions.

IMPETUS

A fourth straight league win sent Atletico to the top of La Liga briefly, but Diego Simeone's men relinquished top spot to Real Sociedad, who defeated Granada 2-0 last night.

Also providing the impetus for his team's victory was Lionel Messi, who came off a bench in a pre-meditated move to help Barcelona to a 5-2 win over Real Betis on Saturday.

Messi had not started a Barca game on the bench since a defeat by Granada in September 2019 and coach Ronald Koeman said his captain was feeling a bit of discomfort after last Wednesday's 2-1 win over Dynamo Kiev in the Champions League.

"We decided that the best thing was to leave him on the bench in case we needed him," Koeman said.

"He would have started if he hadn't had any discomfort. I don't have any doubts about him, I see him work every day... he was very important in the second half."

Messi, who came on for the injured Ansu Fati, bagged a brace and an assist to add on to goals from Antoine Griezmann, Pedri and Ousmane Dembele while Antonio Sanabria and Loren Moron replied for Betis, who had Aissa Mandi sent off on the hour-mark.

The only sour note of Barca's win was news that Fati had suffered a meniscus tear in his left knee, which could rule the 18-year-old out for a prolonged period. - REUTERS, AFP

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