Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola has warned that his side’s Champions League tie with Shakhtar Donetsk is not over despite seeing his side build a 5-1 first leg lead over the Ukrainian side.
Andres Iniesta, Dani Alves, Gerard Pique, Seydou Keita and Xavi were the goalscorers for Barca while Shakhtar’s reply came from a Yaroslav Rakitskiy strike when they were already 3-0 down.
Barca are now huge favourites to progress through and, barring a huge upset in both games, in the semi-finals will meet arch rivals Real Madrid, who hold a 4-0 lead over Tottenham following their quarter-final first leg.
If that does happen, then Barca and Madrid will face each other four times in a matter of 19 days as they also have a league encounter and the Copa del Rey final to contest.
Shakhtar coach Mircea Lucescu admitted after the match that he thought the semi-finals were now beyond his side, saying: “I think the tie is already decided and they are going through.”
However, Guardiola, whose side was pushed hard by Shakhtar, has warned against complacency.
He said: “I’m more than happy but I’m aware that this isn’t over. We must take things very seriously. Shakhtar are one of the best teams I’ve ever seen.”
Guardiola highlighted his side’s recent Copa del Rey quarter-final against Real Betis as a reason not to get carried away.
In that tie Barca recorded a 5-0 win in the first leg but had a nervy time of it in the return meeting as they found themselves 2-0 down after seven minutes and 3-1 down at half-time.
“We still remember the 5-0 against Betis and how bad we had it there in the cup,” he said.
Despite the absence of several key players, Guardiola paid tribute to the competitive spirit of his side.
“We are a little short at the back as with the absences of Abidal and Puyol we’re missing important players with pace and we need to replace that with other qualities,” he continued. “Having said that, the players at my disposal are physical animals and if there’s one thing they know it’s how to compete.”
Lucescu, meanwhile, admitted that he has not expected such a defeat.
“We weren’t expecting this,” he said. “We have a great team that can play much better than we did. I decided not to close up and defend. I decided to try and play, to catch them out. But when we had a chance to score we missed it and they instantly went 1-0 up with an incredible goal from Iniesta that changed everything.
“We did get ourselves back into it – we fought our way into the game but went on failing to convert our opportunities. In contrast, Barça know exactly how to provoke errors in your defending – they are so smart. They were clinical in taking their own chances, grew in confidence and, I think, the tie is already decided and they are going through.
“But we will use this experience to grow, to learn and we will attempt to win the home leg in front of more than 50,000 fans who want to see us playing with style. We have lost to a footballing machine and they know how to guard this lead in the second leg but I know we can be very positive and play much better next week.”