Messi, Ronaldo in spotlight for different reasons

Barcelona’s Lionel Messi is one goal away from breaking yet another record provided he the finds the back of the net when the Spanish league leaders host Rayo Vallecano Saturday night.
Hamza Nkuutu
Hamza Nkuutu

Barcelona’s Lionel Messi is one goal away from breaking yet another record provided he the finds the back of the net when the Spanish league leaders host Rayo Vallecano Saturday night.

The four-time Ballon d’Or winner took his tally to an astonishing 335 goals for the Spanish champions when he scored in the 1-1 draw against Real Sociedad in the King’s Cup semi-final return leg in midweek.

 

Messi equaled the record set by Athletic Bilbao’s Telmo Zarra for the most goals scored by one player for a single Spanish club.

 

Now the 26-year-old will fancy his chances of surpassing that record against struggling Rayon, who are second from bottom and would need to do something special about their form to avoid relegation.

 

Ironically, the Argentine captain has a very good record against the Madrid club, whom he scored four times last season.

In total, Messi, who is returning to his top form after missing the whole of November and December through injury, has scored seven goals in the last five meetings between the two clubs.

Reading the stats, Rayo have not enjoyed a good run against the Catalan giants in recent years and will have their backs against the wall at the ever intimidating Nou Camp.

Gerardo ‘tata’ Martino’s team returned to the summit of the table last weekend with a 4-1 win at Sevilla.

Interestingly though, all the three top sides; Barcelona, Real Madrid, and Atletico Madrid - share the same record of wins, draws and losses in what is turning out to be one of the closest title races in years.

The champions, who are beginning to rediscover the type of form that made them the most feared team on the planet a few years ago, lost 2-3  against Valencia in their last home league match.

However, it would take a big upset if they fail to beat a team that has only won 6, drawn 2 and lost 15 of their 23 La Liga games.

Is Madrid special?

According to reports, the referee, who sent off Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo in their draw at Athletic Bilbao last Sunday, has been suspended for a month and banned from taking charge of any other Real Madrid matches this season!

The reigning World Player of the Year was shown a straight red by Miguel Ángel Ayza Gámez with a quarter of an hour left to play after an exchange of unpleasantly words with Athletic captain Carlos Gurpegi.

However, the ban, which was dished out by Spain’s refereeing technical committee is going to do little to shelve the usual narrative by critics that the two Spanish giants, Real and Barca, but particularly the former, are favoured by the authorities.

Some would say Real Madrid are treated as a special case and this Ronaldo vs ref case is another example, but really if the Portugal inspirational skipper was not guilty of serious foul play, why wasn’t his three match ban for the straight red, rescinded?

Fine, nobody outside Spain’s refereeing technical committee really knows what exactly led to banning Gámez, but from my point of view, if the powers upheld Ronaldo’s three match suspension, then they must have agreed with how the ref handled events.

Had he been wrong with his decision, the sanction would have been nullified, but instead banning him from officiating Real Madrid matches, looks like a suggestion to all Spanish referees on how to handle certain clubs.

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