Bayern Munich sent out an emphatic and ominous message to their Champions League rivals with an absolute demolition of fellow European heavyweights Barcelona in a gloriously chaotic and utterly one-sided quarter-final tie in Lisbon.
The high-pressing, energetic and ruthless German champions were on a different level to their Spanish rivals, as they have been for pretty much every opponent they have faced in Europe this season and in every competition since football restarted in June.
They scored four times in the first half, added another quartet in the second, and could easily have netted more against a shell-shocked and shambolic Barca side whose defensive errors were too numerous to recount and who now have a new and embarrassing record defeat in European competition to their name.
Bayern were not entirely infallible, though, with Barca’s forward players – inevitably led by Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez – regularly finding space in behind to cause problems and test Manuel Neuer.
In a dizzyingly madcap opening 10 minutes, Thomas Muller fired Bayern ahead following a one-two with Robert Lewandowski and David Alaba wildly sliced a Jordi Alba cross into his own net to restore parity, before Suarez was denied by Neuer and Messi hit the post with a curling cross through a packed box.
The following 22 minutes took the game away from Barca, with Ivan Perisic smashing in a deflected second for Bayern before Serge Gnabry finished off a delightful ball over the top from Leon Goretzka, and Muller poked in his second at the near post.
A neat turn and finish from Suarez after the break gave the Spanish side hope, but this was snuffed out by arguably the pick of the goals – a Joshua Kimmich side-foot finish following some stunning skill and speed and excellent delivery from Alphonso Davies.
Robert Lewandowski headed his 14th Champions League goal in just eight games before salt was poured into Barca’s deep wounds as Philippe Coutinho – on loan from the Spanish side – netted a seventh and eighth via close-range finishes after coming off the bench.
Bayern are by far the most decorated side left in the competition, having won the European Cup/Champions League on five occasions, most recently in 2013 and look comfortably the strongest left in this season’s tournament.
They will find out their semi-final opponent on Saturday, when England’s last remaining challenger Manchester City face French side Lyon.
Bayern hit new heights in stellar season
There is always a danger that knock-out games between two of Europe’s most decorated sides become a cagey tactical grapple as opposed to the haymaker-throwing thrill-fest promised by the hype.
Not Barca v Bayern, though. This is a match-up that delivers, even in an empty, neutral stadium.
Four knock-out ties since 2009 have now yielded 36 goals at an average of five goals per game.
This includes the Arjen Robben and Muller-inspired 7-0 aggregate win for Bayern in the semi-finals in 2013 and a Messi and Neymar masterclass in the last four two years later as Barca floored the Germans.
But this game tops the lot and will last long in the memory as a showcase of two sides now operating in different stratospheres.
Bayern’s brilliance and risky high line, Barcelona’s crippling frailty but still potent attack – it all ensured that a goalscoring chance was never far away and the ball in the net a high possibility from each.
Such has been the quality of these sides in the three previous knock-out ties, the winner of each went on to lift the trophy, and you would not put it past Bayern continuing that trend.
They have ripped through the competition, scoring 39 goals and conceding just eight in the process of winning all 10 of their matches. The eight they scored on Friday is the most a side has scored in a European Cup tie since Real Madrid beat FC Wacker Innsbruck 9-1 in a last-16 tie in 1990-91.
This is on top of the nine they won post-lockdown to claim an eighth straight Bundesliga title and the two that gave them the German Cup.
The hiring of Hansi Flick – initially on an interim basis but now permanently – now looks like a masterstroke by the Bayern hierarchy.
In a short space of time he has built a Bayern side that is every bit the match of their impressive predecessors, constructed around a positivity that makes Jerome Boateng and Alaba playmakers from the back, Davies and Kimmich as much wingers as full-backs and Lewandowski, Muller et al a seamless attacking unit unmatched on the continent.
Whichever of Manchester City or Lyon win on Saturday have a monumental task on their hands next Wednesday.
Game over for this Barca side
Barcelona’s dismantling on the pitch in Lisbon will surely now proceed major restructuring work off it before next season.
This was not just a defeat, it was a humiliation. A first defeat by a six-goal margin since a 6-0 loss to Espanyol in 1951. Their first concession of eight in a match since an 8-0 defeat to Sevilla in 1946.
The average age of their starting XI on Friday was 29 years and 329 days, the oldest they have ever named for a Champions League tie.
Only Messi and goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen have regularly performed to the level expected of a Barca player this campaign and question marks now hang over most of their team-mates.
One man whose time is now surely up is manager Quique Setien, who has overseen the club relinquishing the La Liga title to fierce rivals Real Madrid and now a European defeat like no other.
His starting XI was conservative, with the attack-minded Antoine Griezmann, Ousmane Dembele (both nine-figure signings) and Ivan Rakitic left on the bench, and one that practically screamed its reliance on some magic from Messi or Suarez.
But such a brilliant duo can only bail their boss out so many times.
Before the game, Arturo Vidal, who started in midfield, proclaimed his former side Bayern were facing “the best team in the world”.
He is now not just eating those ill-chosen words but choking on them.