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Five-star Barca cruise towards Real face-off

Barcelona all but secured their spot in the Champions League semi-finals and a probable showdown with arch rivals Real Madrid after building a huge first-leg lead over Shakhtar Donetsk.

Barca appear to have done all the hard work after another memorable European night at the Nou Camp.

Andres Iniesta, Dani Alves, Gerard Pique, Seydou Keita and Xavi were on the mark for the Catalan giants, while Shakhtar's sole reply came from Yaroslav Rakitskiy when they were already 3-0 down.

Barcelona took the lead after just 99 seconds through Iniesta. The Spanish World Cup winner slotted a low shot past Andrei Pyatov at his near post after picking up a loose ball in the area.

Alves added the second 10 minutes before the break when he nipped in front of Pyatov from a lofted Iniesta pass before slotting into an empty goal.

Messi and Xavi both had efforts saved before Pep Guardiola's side made it 3-0 in the 53rd minute through Pique following a training-ground move.

Shakhtar gave themselves a glimmer of hope after netting an away goal in the 58th minute, with Rakitskiy on target.

Barca immediately went down the other end and restored their three-goal lead as Messi set up the unmarked Keita and they all but killed the tie off by notching a fifth goal in the 86th minute when Xavi slotted in Alves' pass.

Irish Independent