DONETSK - Barcelona dispatched
Shakhtar Donetsk from the Champions League with a minimum of
fuss on Tuesday, their focus quickly turning towards a probable
semi-final showdown against arch rivals Real Madrid.
A Lionel Messi goal late in the first half earned Barca a
1-0 quarter-final second leg win in Ukraine, securing a 6-1
aggregate success that put the 2009 winners into the semis for a
fourth consecutive season.
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Real, who defend a 4-0 lead against Tottenham Hotspur in
London on Wednesday, almost certainly await in the last four.
The Spanish giants are set to clash four times in 18 days,
including Saturday's La Liga match at the Bernabeu and the
King's Cup final on April 20 in Valencia.
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Barca coach Pep Guardiola will again lock horns with his
Real counterpart Jose Mourinho, a former Barca assistant who
engineered Inter Milan's victory over the Catalan club in last
season's semis and led the Italian side on to the title before
moving to the Spanish capital.
"We are competing for everything with the most powerful club
in the world of football," Guardiola said in an interview with
"Both are great teams and the pressure is the same for
each," he added. "In the end it's a game and now we have to work
out how we can cause them damage."
The temperature was hovering just above freezing at
Shakhtar's imposing Donbass Arena as the home side set about
what was always likely to be an impossible mission against
Guardiola's slick side.
Despite Barca's comfortable 5-1 lead from last week's first
leg at the Nou Camp, the former Spain and Barca midfielder had
warned his players not to underestimate their opponents and he
decided against resting any of his first-choice players.
Shakhtar enjoyed some decent early pressure and goalkeeper
Victor Valdes was forced into saves from Douglas Costa and
Jadson before the visitors began to get into their stride.
Argentina forward Messi squandered two decent chances before
he broke the deadlock just before halftime.
Full-back Daniel Alves picked out the World Player of the
Year in the penalty area and he held off three defenders before
slotting low past Andriy Pyatov.
It was his ninth Champions League goal of the campaign,
putting him top of the scoring chart, and a club record 48th of
the season in all competitions - including a hat-trick against
Sevilla in the Spanish Super Cup in August - beating the mark
he set last term.
Barca were always in control of the tie and Pyatov denied
Ibrahim Afellay with a brilliant one-handed save in the 59th
minute before Guardiola withdrew playmaker Xavi, centre-back
Gerard Pique and striker David Villa to give them a rest before
Saturday's Real game.
"I think the team is playing much better than previous years
and we just hope we can convert that into more titles," Valdes
told Spanish TV.
"We will face these matches against Real with the same
desire as always," he added.
"It's going to be very intense but also a lot of fun.
Winning another treble (after the one in 2009) is a difficult
proposition but not impossible and we have to fight for it."
Shakhtar coach Mircea Lucescu said the experience of playing
Barca would stand his players on good stead for the future.
"We made too many mistakes in Barcelona so we wanted to end
the campaign with our heads held high," he told a news
"It was a very entertaining game. Other teams do not create
as many chances against Barcelona as we did. This match will
help us prepare for games like this next season."
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