Yet again, Messi and Ronaldo thriving when it matters most
FC Barcelona's Lionel Messi after scoring against Atletico Madrid on March 4, 2018. (Manu Fernandez / AP)
Tales Azzoni, The Associated Press
Published Thursday, March 8, 2018 11:27AM EST
MADRID -- One is keeping Barcelona in contention for a treble, and the other is putting Real Madrid in position to clinch a third straight Champions League title.
Of course, it's Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo -- and it's not the least bit surprising that they are stepping up at just the right time for their teams.
Messi has scored 32 goals in 41 matches for Spanish-league leader Barcelona this season, while Ronaldo has 31 from 33 for two-time defending Champions League champion Madrid.
Ronaldo has been the more lethal one in recent weeks, scoring 11 goals in his last six matches as the league title slips away but the Champions League becomes all the more important. Three of his latest goals came in the 5-2 aggregate win over Paris Saint-Germain in the last 16 of the Champions League.
Scoring goals in Europe's most prestigious club competition is nothing new, however. Ronaldo is the all-time leading scorer in the tournament with 117.
Messi has been pretty impressive, too. The Argentina forward has scored five goals in his last five matches, including the lone strike in the 1-1 draw against Chelsea in the first leg of the last 16 in the Champions League. The second leg is Wednesday at the Camp Nou in Barcelona.
"There is no player like Messi in the world," said Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde, perhaps even understating the value of a guy who has helped the club win eight league titles and four Champions League titles in his 14 years with the team.
Barcelona leads the Spanish league and is still alive in the Copa del Rey. Madrid, however, trails the leaders by 15 points in the league and has already been eliminated from the cup competition.
That leaves the Champions League as the main head-to-head competition for the two players who have split the last 10 FIFA player of the year awards.