x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Latest Clasico will allow Ronaldo and Messi to make their points

The world's best two players keep on breaking goal scoring records in their quest to be Spain's top-scorer - now they go head-to-head in another Clasico. 

Barcelona forward Lionel Messi looks on during the 5-1 win over Osasuna.
Barcelona forward Lionel Messi looks on during the 5-1 win over Osasuna.

BARCELONA // Two more emphatic home wins, two more records pulverised by the planet's best two footballers.

First up was Cristiano Ronaldo, now being called "a machine" by teammates. In front of his watching son and mother, he scored a hat-trick within 10 minutes in Sunday's 4-0 win over Getafe. Real Madrid have returned to form.

Ronaldo was substituted to applause after 72 minutes. Despite the dissenting voices in the dressing room and the stands towards Jose Mourinho, Ronaldo - and to a lesser extent Mesut Ozil - is dragging Madrid along with his brilliance.

The Spanish champions have won 75 per cent of the games in which he has scored. Their ultra critical fans took time to warm to him. They accused him of not helping out in defence or not celebrating the goals of other players, but such criticisms have faded. They appreciate him now. The feeling is mutual.

"Cristiano proved again that he's a really great player and is just what the club needs," said his teammate Sergio Ramos. "He infects the rest of the team."

Sunday saw him reach 100 goals in the Bernabeu, from just 87 games - a club record. With 10 goals so far this month, Ronaldo has scored 33 for his club in all competitions so far. He has also started 35 games, more than any other Madrid player.

His nemesis is Lionel Messi. Like Ronaldo, he plays more than any teammate. Not for him the chance to sit out against lowly opposition. No, he sees it as a chance to score more goals, to stay ahead in the two man goals race.

A few hours after Ronaldo's hat-trick, Messi broke the Brazilian Ronaldo's record to become the first player in the history of the Primera Liga to score in 11 consecutive games as Barca beat Osasuna 5-1. He has 32 league goals after 21 games - 11 more than Madrid's Ronaldo - and retains the 11 goal advantage with 44 from 32 games in all competitions.

Messi was carrying a slight injury from last week's cup win at Malaga and was almost static, but he stayed on the pitch as if he was feeding off Ronaldo's goals and wanting to go one better, which he did. Messi did not run as much, but he still possessed the burst to go past players and score.

As for Ronaldo's 100 goals in the Bernabeu, Messi's Sunday haul saw him pass the 200 mark for league goals, a feat achieved by just seven other players. Zarra, Spain's all-time leading goalscorer, has 251. At 25, Messi has time to destroy that record and 2013 should see him pass legends such as Raul, Hugo Sanchez, Alfredo Di Stefano, Cesar and Quini. Raul scored his 228 goals in 550 games. Messi has 201 from 235 matches.

The pair keep raising the goal scoring bar higher and higher. Messi's league tally so far would have been enough to win the Pichichi in nine of the 10 years in the 90s.

The only time both struggle to shine at the same time is when they play against each other. It is usually one or the other and Ronaldo has had the measure of Barca's defence in recent clasicos. The pair meet on Wednesday in the first leg of the Copa del Rey semi-final in the Bernabeu.

They will shake hands and say hello. They are not friends, but their respect for each others' talent is genuine.

Queues for the final batch of 80,000 tickets snaked around the stadium yesterday, the enthusiasm of Madrid fans revived after their side's recent good form. It is the fourth meeting this season, following the six clasicos last term and there will be at least two more this season.

Ronaldo has scored seven goals in his last six clasicos. Madrid are in-form and Barca were beaten for the first time this season 10 days ago, yet the Catalans are not going for a draw against a side missing Iker Casillas, Ramos, Angel Di Maria and Fabio Coentrao.

"We're coming into the clasico in fine form. A good result will be beating Madrid, not drawing," said Barca's Sergio Busquets.

Messi has a point to prove. And so does Ronaldo.



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