Messi Ronaldo

El Clasico in Spain between Real Madrid and Barcelona will be big even without the stars these two teams put on the pitch every match, but having Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo going head to head always makes it slightly better.

Being in the La Liga longer, Lionel Messi leads Ronaldo in goals scored between the teams. Messi has a total of 18 goals, tied for first with Alfredo Di Stefano, including 11 in league matches: Tied with Raul for third, following Cesar Rodriguez from Barcelona and Di Stefano with 14.

Ronaldo usually doesn’t score in league matches between the sides – he has only four goals in the El Clasico matches he’s played in under the La Liga banner. He does a lot better when it’s a cup match, with eight of his goals (out of a total of 12) coming through knockout competitions.

This time? Ronaldo is the hotter player going into the match. He has scored 25 goals in 24 league matches this season, well on his way to win the scoring title, but it’s been his Champions League form that has drawn the most attention – scoring 13 goals in 7 matches, needing only two more to set a new competition record for goals in a season, breaking Messi’s 14. With at least two more matches for him to play (Dortmund in the quarterfinals), it would be unwise to bet against him achieving that record.

Messi? It’s been a rougher year for Messi. Ups and downs, injury, the whole tax scandal. It’s impossible not be somehow tilted by all that’s happening around him. His scoring form is fine: He has 18 league goals in 21 matches, 31 goals in 33 matches overall. That’s not a bad season, but when you’re used to a player scoring more than a goal per match, anything that falls short of that turns into a disappointment.

The Clasico is about more than just Ronaldo and Messi, but they make it even bigger. Any source of some personal rivalry doesn’t steal from the magic and power of the biggest club match in the world, it only enhances it. And after the two didn’t score in the previous encounter (2-1 for Barcelona at the Nou Camp), be certain that we’ll see at least one goal from one of them in the second match between the two teams.