Ronaldo, Messi primed for Spanish classic
© AFP

Cristiano Ronaldo scored a hat-trick in a 5-1 home win over Athletic Bilbao today to move Real Madrid back to the Spanish summit. Madrid now sit one point above bitter rivals Barcelona, with the pair scheduled to clash in nine days time at the Camp Nou.

Earlier today, Barcelona crushed Almeria 8-0 with Lionel Messi bagging a hat-trick to give him 100 league goals in a Barcelona shirt in just 154 games.

Not to be overshadowed by the Argentina striker, Cristiano Ronaldo scored a treble as Real Madrid maintained their perfect home record with a sixth win. Ronaldo took his league season's tally to 14 goals with the hat-trick as unbeaten Real Madrid made it 32 points from a possible 36. Los Merengues will now hope to end a run of four successive defeats against Barcelona when they meet on 29 November at the Camp Nou. Thanks to his hat-trick today, Ronaldo now tops the Spanish goalscoring charts with one more goal than Messi (13 league goals).

After Real Madrid and Barcelona Almeria had the third best defence in the league before this match and that says a lot about our win.
Pep Guardiola, Barcelona coach

Madrid could have gone behind with Spanish international striker Fernando Llorente forcing Pepe to clear off the line as early as the second minute. The hosts dusted themselves down and Higuain showed great strength to shrug off his man and cooly finish. Llorente then forced another fine save from Casillas and Madrid punished Bilbao for the miss with Mesut Ozil laying off for Ronaldo to side-foot in. Llorente finally got the goal his hard work deserved firing into the roof of the net on 40 minutes to make it 2-1 at the interval with his ninth goal of the season.

Mourinho's men took command in the second half and two goals in five minutes killed off the match. Sergio Ramos scored his first goal of the season from the penalty spot on 57 minutes before Ronaldo's swerving free-kick crept thanks in part to some poor goalkeeping. The Portuguese star converted a penalty for his hat-trick. Ronaldo has yet to win a clasico. In contrast, Messi has been on the winning team in the last four Spanish classics. Messi also scored in the last meeting between the two sides, back in April, when Barcelona won 2-0 at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Messi hits century
At Almeria, 23-year-old Messi opened the scoring for Barcelona on 16 minutes and netted again on 36 minutes to make it 100 league goals in a Barcelona shirt in just 154 games before completing his hat-trick with a tap-in on 66 minutes. Barcelona were 5-0 up at half-time and Messi's third goal and a brace from substitute Bojan Krkic in the second half made it 8-0 to equal the biggest away win in league history matching Barcelona's 8-0 win at Las Palmas back in 1959.

"We weren't trying to send a warning out to anyone," insisted Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola. "After Real Madrid and Barcelona Almeria had the third best defence in the league before this match and that says a lot about our win."

Both teams are in European action before the Monday night showpiece with Barcelona travelling to Panathinaikos on Wednesday while Real Madrid travel to Ajax on Tuesday for their UEFA Champions League game.

In today's other La Liga fixture, Italian international striker Giuseppe Rossi scored his eighth league goal of the campaign to rescue a point for Villarreal in a 1-1 home draw with local rivals Valencia on Saturday. Villarreal saw their 100 percent home record of five wins at El Madrigal come to an end, however, Rossi's 73rd minute volley salvaged a point and Villarreal stay three points ahead of Valencia in third but eight points behind Real.

Aritz Aduriz had put Valencia into a 20th minute lead to give Valencia the intitiative and the visitors frustrated the home side before Rossi produced a clinical volley to clinch a point. Valencia had defender Marius Stankevicius sent off for a second booking on 80 minutes but held on for a point and now prepare for Wednesday's UEFA Champions League home match with Bursaspor.