With the second league installment of El Classico in Spain now tantalisingly close, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi took their own personal battle to the next level ahead of Saturday’s clash at the Nou Camp.
Real Madrid currently sit four points clear of their famous rivals, surviving a scare against Sporting Gijon at the Santiago Bernabeu to come through 3-1 winners.
That victory put the pressure on Barcelona, who were forced to work hard for their 2-1 victory against Levante after they went behind at the Estadi Ciutat de València.
Unsurprisingly, it was the efforts of Ronaldo and Messi that made the difference for European football’s two biggest teams on Saturday.
In the Spanish capital, with things not going the way of Los Blancos, the Portuguese winger popped up with a huge headed goal in the second-half, nodding the hosts in-front and laying the foundation for the win when the score was tied at 1-1.
Hours later, the Argentine playmaker came the rescue of the Blaugrana, netting twice in the second period when the chips were down and the title was slipping away from Pep Guardiola’s side.
On the team front, it leaves Jose Mourinho’s side four points clear with just five games remaining. But, with the two teams set to meet next, a nail-biting finish to the campaign could be on the agenda.
And in an individual battle for glory, Ronaldo and Messi are enjoying quite incredible goalscoring seasons as the pair go head-to-head for both the Spanish and European Golden Boot.
This weekend’s activities left the pair tied on 41 league goals this season. To put that into perspective for fans of the Premier League, that’s 14 goals more than the ‘prolific’ Robin Van Persie.
The figure also breaks the previous record – set by Ronaldo last season – of 40 goals in a single season in the Primera Division.
So what can be said about these two great players that hasn’t been already? The superlatives roll off the tongue when discussing each individual’s efforts.
It is perhaps an injustice for both players that their careers will be forever linked. Were they to be playing in different eras, then both would be seen as the greatest player of their time.
That said, the two players appear to be spurring themselves onto greater and greater achievements within the game, and Spanish football is certainly reaping the rewards ahead of one of the most anticipated domestic matches in recent history.
Luckily for the neutral, Ronaldo avoided a booking over the weekend against Gijon, and will be able to line-up against his great adversary over the weekend.
When the two have met previously, Messi has undoubtedly enjoyed the greater success, both against Manchester United and Madrid when Ronaldo has been in opposition.
But, such is the way football works, Ronaldo could easily turn the dynamics in his favour with a performance to remember in Catalonia. Were Madrid to win the Champions League too, then the argument over who is the best player in the world would surely rage on again.
Goalscoring is just one part of that mythical battle, but it’s certainly an attribute these two don’t lack in, and you can be sure that 41 goals won’t be enough to see either home as the Golden Boot winner.
Indeed, the figure is likely to be closer to 50, which in itself is almost unbelievable – scoring at a rate of close to one-and-a-half a game – and whoever comes out on top is likely to have helped their famous team to another title.
But this one might just be the biggest that either has ever won - and it’s all because of Messi and Ronaldo.