Barcelona have one foot in the Champions League Quarter-Finals after a brace from Alexis Sanchez and a late Lionel Messi volley secured an impressive 3-1 win away at Bayer Leverkusen on Tuesday night.
The match was a welcome break from their troubled domestic campaign which has seen them slip ten points behind their fierce rivals Real Madrid in the La Liga title race and they produced a wonderful free-flowing display of attacking football to suggest that they are still the team to beat in Europe's most prestigious club competition.
Chances were at a premium in the first half as the German side were happy to sit back and keep things tight in the hope of springing a counter-attack if the opportunity arose. Barcelona dominated the play, achieving 80% possession in the first-half but struggled to break down a resistant Leverkusen defence.
However, Barcelona unlocked the deadlock four minutes prior to half-time when Sanchez played a header to Messi on the half-way line, who produced a genius through ball with the outside of his left into the path of the Chilean winger, who had continued his run and he coolly finished between the legs of Bernd Leno.
In the second half, Robin Dutt's side emerged from their shell, knowing that a home defeat would all but end their Champions League hopes for this season. They pressed Barcelona higher up the pitch and were rewarding for their attacking mentality on 51 minutes when Michal Kadlec rose above Sanchez to nod in Vedran Corluka's cross.
However, their lead lasted only three minutes when Cesc Fabregas played an inch-perfect pass which split the Leverkusen defence and Sanchez was on hand to round the keeper and finish with aplomb. It was clinical football at its very finest and a valuable second away goal for Guardiola's side.
Credit was due to Leverkusen though who continued to work tirelessly and they came within inches of grabbing a second equaliser when Gonzalo Castro's low drive was tipped onto the post by Victor Valdes.
Lionel Messi also struck the woodwork on 72 minutes with a chip over Leno after a mesmerising dribble and nutmeg. But he was not to be denied a seventh Champions League goal in six games as he volleyed Dani Alves's cross in from close range with two minutes remaining to cap a superb first leg away victory.
Elsewhere in the Champions League, Lyon secured a narrow 1-0 win at home to surprise package Apoel Nicosia, AC Milan thrashed Arsenal 4-0 at the San Siro and Zenit St.Petersburg beat Benfica at home in a thrilling 3-2 encounter.