Barcelona couldn't have asked for a bigger confidence booster ahead of its Champions League semifinal at Chelsea than Saturday's 6-2 rout of classic rival Real Madrid. Barcelona's biggest ever scoring output at Santiago Bernabeu Stadium came a year after the Catalans had to salute Madrid on the very same ground as newly crowned Spanish league champion. Now, Barcelona holds a seven-point lead on its rival with four games to play after the "clasico" win and is on the verge of snapping a three-year trophyless drought.
"Last season when we played here it was one of the worst days of my life - this has been one of the best," captain Carles Puyol said. "It's historic, a very important game. We're euphoric." Barcelona was relishing Wednesday's Champions League match at Chelsea, where the teams play after a 0-0 first leg. It produced total football, as preached and practiced by rookie coach Pep Guardiola.
"It's a glorious night because winning at such an important stadium against a marvelous club like this is very, very big," said Guardiola, a former Barcelona player who played under Johann Cruyff. "We're going (to Chelsea) feeling very good."
Barcelona is rewriting the league record books after reaching 100 goals to sit only seven shy of matching the best mark for a season. Samuel Eto'o (27 goals), Lionel Messi (23) and Thierry Henry (19) have combined for 69 league goals to become the league's highest scoring trio, surpassing the 66 by Madrid greats Ferenc Puskas (28), Alfredo di Stefano (21) and Luis del Sol (17) during the 1960-61 season.
Barcelona's players certainly celebrated the victory, staying on the field long after the final whistle to enjoy the moment while fans gathered along Barcelona's Las Rambla street to celebrate a big step toward adding silverware for the first time since a Champions League-league double in 2006.
"We dominated most of the match and we leave with a great feeling that we've taken a step that is nearly definite in the league," said Andres Iniesta, who was even applauded by 80,000 fans as he came off in the 86th minute. "Not quite, but almost." Iniesta and Xavi Hernandez played perfect providers to Messi and Henry up front, with Messi playing in a center forward position to take advantage of Madrid's slower center backs.
Eto'o just stopped short of calling Guardiola's tactical move genius.
"We knew we had to play our game and that's what we did," Messi said. "We were superior."
Madrid coach Juande Ramos said Madrid would have to make major changes if it hoped to compete with Europe's best. "That's an element that is very clear at this moment. In comparison to the major clubs of Europe, we can't compete on a sporting scale," Ramos said.
Madrid striker Raul Gonzalez said the Spanish champions will try to keep their slight hopes alive.
"Clearly it depends on them. We'll try to finish the best that we can," Raul said. "That's football, they were better. (But) it's the kind of defeat that hurts."