Messi, Ronaldo wage scoring duel in Spanish league
Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi are turning the Spanish league title chase into a shootout between Europe's most prolific goal-scorers.
Ronaldo has 11 goals, helping Real Madrid to the top of the standings after nine games. Barcelona trails by one point thanks in part to Messi's seven goals.
The two forwards - the last two World Player of Year winners and the Spanish league's top two scorers - appear locked in an increasingly personal duel, too.
Ronaldo scored four goals in response to Messi's pair last week. The Argentine added another two in Saturday's 5-0 rout of Sevilla - right after Ronaldo scored two in the last eight minutes of a 3-1 win at Hercules.
''I feel phenomenal,'' Ronaldo said. ''I am in great form. I have scored and I am happy that we are still leaders.''
Ronaldo has 12 goals in 13 games to Messi's 14 from 12. Ronaldo has scored a Madrid-record 10 goals in his last four league matches; Messi has had two-goal games in his last three domestic appearances.
There is already talk of Ronaldo possibly breaking the league record of 38 goals in a season.
Monday's cover of sports daily AS read ''Cristiano, going after Zarra and Hugo,'' in reference to Athletic Bilbao's Telmo Zarra and Real Madrid's Hugo Sanchez, the league scoring leaders from the 1950-51 and 1989-90 seasons.
Messi scored 47 goals in all competitions last year in leading the Spanish champion to a record six major trophies in one season.
''A player like him only comes around once every 50 years,'' teammate Xavi Hernandez was quoted as saying on FIFA.com on Monday. ''Leo is now even better than (Diego) Maradona was.''
The outstanding play by Messi and Ronaldo couldn't have come at a better time, with the ''clasico'' match between the Spanish powers approaching.
Madrid's Jose Mourinho, one of the few coaches to get the better of Barcelona during his career, has already begun escalating the rhetoric leading toward the Nov. 28 match at Camp Nou.
''That just bounces off of us,'' said Messi, who has been key to the Catalan club winning four straight over Madrid. ''He's looking to get under our skin so we play his game, but we won't. We shouldn't give importance to what Mourinho says.''
Associated Press writer Joseph Wilson contributed to this report.