If ever there was a game to demonstrate the Messi-Ronaldo rivalry, this was it. The two footballers were at their glorious best as the points were shared at the Camp Nou. Barça went into the game with an eight point advantage but that lead looked to be in doubt after Ronaldo grabbed the opening goal in the 22nd minute. A powerful strike found it's way into the goal at Victor Valdes' near post.
But Barcelona weren't down for long as seven minutes later, Messi found the net. The Argentine was the quickest to react after a Dani Alves cross deflected off Xabi Alonso. Barça's number 10 got his second in the match at the hour mark. A pin-point free kick flew past Iker Casillas as Barcelona looked to increase the point gap. But five minutes later Ronaldo broke the offside trap and levelled the score. Meaning the game ended at Messi 2-2 Ronaldo.
The pair locked horns again just under four months later but this time it was in the cup. With Barcelona already well ahead in the league the cup was a chance for Madrid to get one over their rivals. But it was Barcelona who dominated this match and were disappointed to leave with just the one away goal.
That away goal was scored by Cesc Fàbregas as Messi worked the ball through a crowd of players. Fàbregas picked up the ball and finished past Diego López. Barcelona looked to be going away with the 1-0 win but Raphaël Varane rose well to connect with a Mesut Özil cross to equalise the game in the 81st minute. A result which left a bitter taste in the Catalans' mouthes.
The second leg of the tie saw Real Madrid punish Barcelona for not taking their chances at the Bernabéu. The game started badly for Barcelona as Gerard Piqué brought down Cristiano Ronaldo in the box and the Portuguese score the resultant penalty.
Ronaldo then grabbed his second thirteen minutes after half time. Ángel di María saw his shot saved by Pinto but the ball landed kindly at the feet of Ronaldo. There was little Jordi Alba could do as the Madrid man fired the ball into the net to give Real the advantage in the tie.
Barcelona's evening went from bad to worse eleven minutes later as Varane scored his second goal of the tie. Again out jumping Piqué to head past Pinto. An embarrassing night for stand-in coach Jordi Roura was only made slighty better as Jordi Alba pulled one back for the Catalans. Alba was too quick for Ramos as he was picked out by Iniesta but it was not enough and Barça exited the competition with a score of 2-4 over the two legs.
After the fieriness of the cup Clásicos, this match was described by some Spanish media outlets as the most "decaffeinated" Clásico in years. Barcelona were already well in front in the league standings and had a second leg tie against Milan in the Champions League looming. After losing 2-0 to Milan in the first leg, it was clear where the main focus was as Jordi Roura continued to stand in for Vilanova.
It wasn't long before Madrid were in front as Karim Benzema met a low Álvaro Morata that left Javier Mascherano flatfooted. Messi did manage to pull a goal back as he worked the ball past Diego López's near post.
The game was looking likely to end in a draw but stand-in captain Sergio Ramos was on hand to connect with a Luka Modrić corner and win the game for Madrid.
The most recent Clásico came in the league and Barça went into the game on a good run of form, winning all but one of their last nine league games. Madrid, on the other hand, hadn't started so brightly. A 2-2 draw away at newly-promoted Villarreal and a heart-breaking 1-0 loss to local rivals Atlético meant the club from the capital travelled to the Camp Nou three points behind the reigning champions.
Both managers sprang a tactical surprise in the Clásico debuts. Carlo Ancelotti experimented with Sergio Ramos in midfield while Tata Martino elected to field Xavi, Busquets, Iniesta and Fàbregas for the first time.
Neymar didn't take long to get his first Clásico goal as he opened the scoring in the 18th minute before and Alexis Sánchez wonder goal in the 78th. Madrid starlet Jesé pulled one back in the 88th minute but it was too late and Barcelona won the first Clásico of the 2013/14 season.
The two teams head into Sunday's game separated by four points and a Barça win is vital if they hope to retain their league title.
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