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One of the most used words in the lexicon of European champions FC Barcelona is humility. For Josep Guardiola and his side, a humble attitude to work, injuries, praise and mighty victories has been fundamental to building a team and a spirit capable of defeating a rival like Arsenal FC 4-1 at the Camp Nou in the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals and 6-3 on aggregate.
So to hear experienced and hard-nosed professionals such as Xavi Hernández, Víctor Valdés and Daniel Alves use words like "magnificent", "superb" and "brilliant" indicated how even these players were taken aback by the power, precision and beauty of their four-goal performance against Arsenal.
Lionel Messi, of course, was singled out by his team-mates, but time and again they and their coach emphasised that collective work ethic, collective talent and indomitable spirit make the canvas on which Messi weaves his abstract patterns.
Xavi told UEFA.com: "To hit four goals in a match like this is outrageous – marvellous. Leo is on another level completely from every other player in the world, in a different class. If you are lucky you might find a player like this coming along every quarter of a century."
Nor was this an ordinary night's work from Barcelona – the team produced a magnificent display. "We did everything well," continued the midfielder. "We were organised in defence, our technical level was spectacular, we produced individual moments of brilliance and even when Arsenal were good enough to press us back, we knew how to escape and keep on creating."
It is an apt summary of the opening exchanges. Arsenal started with confidence and intent, taking a merited lead via Nicklas Bendtner's breakaway goal. Yet after Messi had thumped in the 21st-minute equaliser, Barça conjured a fine team goal which the No10 finished and the same player lofted a chip over Manuel Almunia for a hat-trick spanning just 21 minutes.
His fourth goal, with two minutes left, iced a very sweet cake. Daniel Alves told UEFA.com: "You start playing football as a kid because you dream of playing on nights like this. If you love football, like we do, then it's about quality, good play, inspirational performances, and we were magnificent against a tough opponent. Above all I loved the fact that even when we went 1-0 down we didn't lose an ounce of confidence or calmness."
Xavi, meanwhile, spared a thought for Arsenal – "a dignified opponent who I want to congratulate on always trying to play attacking football". Next up for the Blaugrana are FC Internazionale Milano in the semi-finals, and Victor Valdés added: "Now we face an old friend in Samuel Eto'o and it's always more difficult to play against a pal. But I guess it will be the same for him. He's one of several terrific Inter players we have to face and overcome."
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