Club Focus – Barcelona – Catalans gear up for Clasico clashes

Barcelona’s progress to their fourth consecutive Champions League semi-final saw yet another club record tumble as the current incarnation of la Blaugrana continued to impress under manager Pep Guardiola. A Lionel Messi goal just before the break maintained their streak of scoring in every away game in the competition and sealed their record-breaking passage through to the next round, despite some impressive goalkeeping from Victor Valdes to keep the hosts at bay.

History favoured Guardiola’s men from the outset: having only lost twice in thirty-eight two-legged European ties when leading from the first match, Barca were comfortable on the night and looked like a team gearing up for a final assault on three separate competitions. Shakhtar’s hopes of retaining their unbeaten record at their new home were extinguished at the weekend when they lost to Obolon Kiev, leaving Barcelona to earn the honour of taking away their unbeaten European home record.

The Catalan giants will play either Real Madrid or Tottenham Hotspur in the last four, the sixteenth time that Barca have reached this stage of the Champions League or its previous incarnation, the European Cup. Following the hiding that Los Blancos handed out to their London rivals last week, it is looking increasingly likely that for the first time in nearly a decade, the semi-final of Europe’s premier competition will be graced with the presence of a Clasico double header. Barcelona have played Real in the semi-finals of the European cup on two previous occasions and, interestingly enough, lost both times.

The first time they were dumped out in the semi-final was in the 1959/60 season. The Real side of the era had dominated the tournament for a good number of years, boasting some of the finest football talent around. It seems clich

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