Lionel Messi
Lionel Messi of Barcelona celebrates his goal against Bayer Leverkusen during their Champions League round of 16 soccer match in Leverkusen. REUTERS

Lionel Messi has lauded the performance of his Barcelona teammates after the European champions took a giant step towards qualification for the Champions League quarter-finals with a win over Bayer Leverkusen.

The Spanish champions secured a 3-1 victory over Leverkusen at the BayArena courtesy of two goals from Alexis Sanchez and one from Messi.

The Argentine forward impressed throughout the last-16 first-leg tie as Barcelona romped to a comfortable win that puts them in a commanding position ahead of the second leg tie at home on 7 March.

"It was important for us to win this match, because under Pep [Guardiola] we have never won the first match in the Round of 16," Messi is quoted in the Telegraph.

"We knew it would be complicated to play against the Germans. It's always nice to score a goal, but the important thing was the result for the team."

Despite drawing level just after half-time, Leverkusen were outgunned by Barcelona throughout and the German side require a huge upset if they are to reach the last eight for the first time since the 2002 final.

And with Barcelona trailing Real Madrid by 10 points in La Liga, manager Pep Guardiola is convinced his side have the ability to land back-to-back Champions League crowns.

"I think the second half was good, we used the space better after we took the lead," Guardiola said.

"We tried to improve our game, we had a few chances in the first half, but perhaps the final pass was missing.

"We can be happy with the performance we put in today; we have given ourselves a good chance now for the return leg.

"We know that the Germans play a good long-ball game, they use their height and Leverkusen really came at us in the second half and we know we have to be careful in the second leg."