Argentine superstar Lionel Messi hit four goals past Arsenal as the holders stormed into the Champions League semifinals to meet with Inter Milan after the Italian champions beat CSKA Moscow in both legs.
_I would have preferred to have another rival - another opponent..,_ Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola said. _..but this is the team we play._
Arsenal were given a glimmer of hope in the 19th minute at the Camp Nou when Nicklas Bendtner gave the English Premier League title contender a surprise opening goal.
Arsenal's lead was short-lived as Messi took advantage of an error by Mikael Silvestre, who played Messi's pass right back to him on the edge of the area. Messi continued his run before curling it into the top corner in the 21st.
Messi started the move that led to Barcelona's second in the 37th. Having been fed by Messi, Eric Abidal's low cross was blocked, but only as far as Pedro, who knocked the loose ball back to Messi to clip over Arsenal goalkeeper Manuel Almunia.
The Argentinian was in complete control and raced onto Seydou Keita's headed pass and chipped the ball again over Almunia in the 42nd to reach his hat trick.
Messi capped his spectacular performance in the 88th by shooting through Almunia's legs after dribbling the entire Arsenal defense who had the best seats in the house even if they weren't applauding.
_He's the best player I've ever faced and he's the best player in the world,"-_ said a shell shocked Almunia. _It's very difficult to stop someone who has so many skills like that, who can do whatever they want with the ball._
Barcelona's next obstacle in its bid to become the first team to defend the European Cup since AC Milan in 1990 is the South American packed Inter Milan.
Coming up against South American opposition has proved to be a bit of an obstacle for Messi in the past.
Most notably were his many failures in the World Cup South American qualifiers as Argentina struggled to get to South Africa.
Inter's many Brazilians and Argentinians especially in the defensive positions will be key if he is to be contained.
Today the lone English representative, Manchester United which lost to Barcelona in last season's final, is trying to overturn a 2-1 deficit against Bayern Munich, while Lyon takes a 3-1 advantage to Bordeaux in an all-French quarter-final.
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