Barça stars hail return to form
© Getty Images

Dani Alves believes the home fans were treated to the best of Barcelona last night, when Pep Guardiola's side enjoyed a memorable start to their UEFA Champions League campaign. Just three days after suffering a shock 2-0 loss to Hercules at Camp Nou, Barça produced an exhibition of attacking football to thrash Panathinaikos 5-1 in their opening Group D fixture.

The Greeks stunned their hosts by taking a 20th-minute lead through Sidney Govou against the run of play, but the Catalan giants, with Lionel Messi virtually unstoppable, stormed back. The Argentinian superstar scored twice and David Villa also got on the score-sheet to but Barcelona 3-1 up by half-time, before Messi, who had also hit the crossbar in the first half, had the chance to claim his hat-trick after winning a penalty just after the break. The 23-year-old spurned that opportunity after seeing his weak spot-kick saved, but went on to set up late goals for Pedro Rodriguez and Dani Alves.

Messi is the best footballer in the world. The Barça fans have the fortune to be able to enjoy watching him, and we have the fortune to have him on the pitch.
Xavi

Echoing the words of coach Pep Guardiola, the Brazil right-wingback said: "Barça have returned with their best version. Possession, moving the ball around, players getting behind the opposing defence... when this happens the result is always good.

"There was a lot of talk after the last game at home, and we hope from now on we will be back to the level we are used to. We wanted the game to arrive to get rid of the feeling we had from last weekend. We had a bad day. You can lose, but you can never stop fighting because that's our best strength."

Emphatic response
Messi added on the club's official website: "We had to lift our heads and we did that in a very good way. We found ourselves a goal down, but we ended up playing very well.

"The other day we did not do things well, but here we played the ball around quickly. We knew that if the fans had doubts, we had to do things well to dispel these doubts."

Xavi said: "The team needed that after the unexpected defeat, and we are happy because we've once again seen the Barça that we want. I'm very happy with the result, with the play and the dynamic of the team.

"Messi is the best footballer in the world. The Barça fans have the fortune to be able to enjoy watching him, and we have the fortune to have him on the pitch."