Geneva duel awaits clasico rivals
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One of the outstanding matches in this week’s round of international friendlies is the Geneva meeting between Portugal and Argentina, both big-name teams packed with talented performers.

That billing in itself would be enough to grab the attention of local football fans and the rest of the watching world. But factor in a duel between two of the game’s greatest players, rivals in the two biggest clubs in one of Planet Football's top leagues, and the match-up takes on a whole different dimension.

The stars in question are, of course, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, whose latest encounter is being touted as another bout to decide just who between them is the best footballer in the world.

The duo, currently trading blows at the top of the La Liga scoring charts, can both present compelling claims to that honorary title. Over the last three years Ronaldo and Messi have also been fighting it out for the game’s highest individual honours. The Portuguese was named FIFA World Player of 2008, with the Argentinian relieving him of the title the following year and collecting the inaugural FIFA Ballon d’Or in 2010.

Arriving in Switzerland for the showdown, Messi was his usual discreet self as he fielded questions about their latest coming-together. “This game’s not just about Ronaldo,” he said. “The two teams are going to serve up a great match and the fans are going to enjoy it.”

That much may be true, but there is little question that the main attraction for the fans making their way to the Stade de Geneve on Wednesday evening is the sight of the Barcelona and Real Madrid stars going head-to-head.

Expectations levels have also been raised by the majestic form the two players have shown with their clubs of late. As the stats below show, Ronaldo and Messi have been in a class of their own in the Spanish league this term:

24

The number of goals each has scored after 22 matchdays of the 2010/11 Liga season. The prolific pair stand a full ten goals clear of third-placed David Villa, and should they keep up their current scoring rate, they will both eclipse the all-time Spanish record of 38 goals, held jointly by Telmo Zarra and Hugo Sanchez.

51

The number of league matches Cristiano Ronaldo has played in since joining Real Madrid and the number of goals he has scored in those games, prompting the club’s Technical Director Jorge Valdano to call him “the Di Stefano of the 21st century”.

1.21

The average number of goals scored by Lionel Messi in the 2010/11 season so far. El Pulga has hit 40 goals in 33 games with Barça in all competitions. At the age of only 23, he is now the fourth-highest scorer in the history of the club with 167 goals, 68 behind leading marksman Cesar.

16

Messi’s rich and lengthy vein of form has helped put Barcelona in a commanding position at the top of the championship table. With 61 points to their name, Los Blaugranas are seven clear of Madrid, and last weekend chalked up their 16th consecutive league win, surpassing the previous record of 15 set by Los Merengues in 1960/61.

39

The percentage of the combined total of Barcelona and Real Madrid’s league goals scored by Messi and Ronaldo so far this campaign, or 39.3 per cent to be exact. The dynamic duo account for 48 of the 122 goals Spain’s big two have amassed, Barça hitting 70 of them and Los Merengues 52.

The number of goals Messi and Ronaldo scored at the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™, that solitary strike coming from the Portuguese in the 7-0 defeat of Korea DPR in the group stages. Ronaldo departed the competition when Portugal lost to Spain in the Round of 16, while the goalless but nevertheless impressive Messi exited with Argentina, following a heavy quarter-final defeat against Germany.

Have Your Say
Now that we have marked your card for Wednesday’s appetising encounter, which of the game’s golden duo do you think will shine brightest in Geneva? Click on ‘Add your comment’ and let us know.