Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola has expressed his delight at his side’s qualification for the Champions League knockout phase on Tuesday following a comprehensive victory over 10-man Viktoria Plzen in Group H.
The Blaugrana progressed to the last 16 of Europe’s premier club competition after defeating the Czech side 4-0 in Prague, thanks to a hat-trick from Lionel Messi and a header from Cesc Fabregas.
The win means Barca move to the top of the group after four rounds of matches with 10 points and will win it should they muster maximum points against second-placed AC Milan in Italy on Matchday Five, something that Guardiola has already set his eyes on.
"The most important thing is that we're through to the next phase and evidently in our next game against AC Milan we'll be fighting for top spot in the group,” the Catalan is quoted as saying by Uefa.com after the game on Tuesday.
“We're very satisfied to be in the next round with a couple of games to spare. European competition isn't easy, especially at this stage of the season.
“It's normal that you can underestimate opponents but at this level it takes a lot of effort [to win]. Just look at Milan tonight playing away at BATE [1-1 draw].
“It's always hard and I have to admit that in the past, Kazan and Kyiv were great learning curves for me.”
Guardiola, who marked his 200th game as the Blaugrana first team coach in Prague, also showered praise on Messi after the Argentine broke the 200-goal milestone for Barcelona and took his tally to 202 goals.
“We have to congratulate Leo [Messi] for once again scoring goals,” enthused the 40-year-old. “He has scored his 202nd goal [for Barcelona] at just 24 years of age, which says it all really.
“I am convinced he will beat Cesar Rodríguez's club record [of 235] but I don't know if he'll do it this season; it depends on how we do in the rest of the campaign but you can't rule it out.”
However, Guardiola reminded everyone that Messi needs his team-mates at Barcelona to play as well as he does.
“As coaches, we are here to help players like him and others,” he explained. “I tried to move him closer to the area when I arrived at the club; I knew I had to put him in the centre.
“[Messi] is also conscious that without his team-mates and the people around him none of this would be possible.”
In the other game in Group H, Italian champions Milan were held to a 1-1 draw by BATE Borisov in Minsk but still booked their place in the last 16.