Barcelona full-back Eric Abidal claimed the impressive 2-0 Champions League win over Inter Milan was the team’s best performance of the season.
Barca were facing possible elimination heading into Tuesday night’s fixtures, where a home defeat to Group F leaders Inter combined with a Rubin Kazan victory over Dynamo Kiev in the evening’s earlier match would have sent the defending champions tumbling out.
However, Pep Guardiola’s side produced a classy display to see off the runaway Serie A pacesetters thanks to early goals from Gerard Pique and Pedro Rodriguez, and they are now two points clear at the top of the standings and close to a place in the last 16.
Abidal, who returned to the team after last week being struck down with swine flu, said: “We’ve played very well and we’ve won. We have high-quality players and great replacements who can help a lot. We’ve done our best work of the season.”
Making Barca’s performance even more impressive was the fact they were without key attacking duo Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Lionel Messi, both of whom had been struggling with injuries in the lead-up to the match and, although they were named on the bench, played no part.
Yaya Toure was also missing having also contracted swine flu, while defender Dmytro Chygrynskiy was ineligible to play.
Midfielder Xavi said of the win: “We’ve felt very superior to Inter. We’ve dominated and we’ve always believed in ourselves. In general terms, it’s been a great match (by Barca).
“The team have overcome their absences and have shown that we have an extraordinary squad.”
The victory will also have boosted confidence ahead of this weekend’s ‘El Clasico’ against Real Madrid at the Nou Camp.
Madrid travel to Barcelona having replaced the reigning Primera Division champions in top spot last weekend.
A 1-0 win over Racing Santander, combined with Barca’s 1-1 draw at Athletic Bilbao, saw Manuel Pellegrini’s men climb from second place to a point above their arch rivals.
Barca goalkeeper Victor Valdes said on his club’s website: “For the week that we have, the win (over Inter) was very important. We have gained a lot of confidence and morale.
“We’ve played pretty spectacular football.”