Barcelona boss Pep Guardiola described coaching his players as a “privilege” after they secured a spot in the Champions League semi-finals.
A strike from Argentine ace Lionel Messi three minutes before half-time was enough to hand Barca a 1-0 win in their quarter-final second-leg over Ukrainian champions Shakhtar Donetsk, lifting the Catalans to a 6-1 aggregate win.
And after securing Barcelona’s fourth successive Champions League semi-final appearance, and third since he took over from Frank Rijkaard, Guardiola could not have been happier.
“The players at my disposal are fantastic and it’s a privilege (to coach them) in the Champions League semi-finals for the third season running,” Guardiola said.
“These players have won trophies at Barcelona and with the national team, but they just go on and on.”
“It took us a while to get going but once we did we dominated proceedings. We knew it was going to be tough, that we would have to repel them in the early stages. They began to lose heart a little when they saw that the situation was becoming impossible.”
Barcelona face a La Liga clash with arch rivals Real Madrid on Saturday, before taking them on again four days later in the final of the Copa del Rey, and Guardiola – whose side lead the league by eight points from Mourinho’s side – said a win would be a huge advantage.
“On Saturday we want to win because it would mean an enormous step forward for us but I don’t know if that’s going to happen for certain as we are facing very strong rivals,” he said.
“I feel that we have done our homework this term and whatever comes our way from here on in we will treat as a gift.”
Shakhtar coach Mircea Lucescu paid tribute to his players, and claimed his side would be better for the experience next season after achieving their best-ever result in the Champions League.
“Tonight we fought for our honour, hoping for a performance we could be proud of,” Lucescu said.
“In spite of our injury problems we created many opportunities. Shakhtar forced Barcelona to defend – I don’t think many can claim that.”
“This season we did very well in the Champions League, reaching new heights.”
“I think we gave our supporters a few happy memories. The experience gathered in the two matches with Barcelona will help us move on, and we will enter next season in Europe better prepared for top-class ties.”
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