Real Madrid v Barcelona; Cristiano Ronaldo v Lionel Messi.
It's been a week to forget for both clubs, not to mention both players after penalty misses against Chelsea and Bayern Munich respectively in the Champions League.
What the failures from 12 yards proved is that both players are indeed human, and that pressure can do funny things to the very best in the world.
Their misses from the spot also provide an interesting symmetry that compares well to everything else the two have done this season.
Whilst it’s Messi who regularly takes the plaudits as the world’s greatest footballer, it’s Ronaldo who has gone about his business best this season, however.
That’s the thoughts of Jose Mourinho at least, when speaking after his side’s defeat to Bayern Munich on Wednesday night. ‘The Special One’ is excellent at saying he won’t say anything, but then doing just the opposite to provide an intriguing sound bite.
"Cristiano Ronaldo is fantastic. I will not compare him with Messi, we're talking about two great players. I will say this year Cristiano Ronaldo has been better," noted Mourinho.
"The ones that miss the shot are the ones that have the balls to shoot. Fearless, not selfish, they go and try. I'm proud of my men.”
With 65 goals in all competitions and a legendary football record in his sights, Messi could be forgiven for feeling hard done too by the comments of the former Chelsea boss.
But, after two years of playing second fiddle to the Argentine maestro in Spain, it is finally right to declare this season as Ronaldo’s.
42 La Liga goals thus far, one more than Messi after the winner in ‘El Clasico’ last weekend, shows that the former Manchester United winger hasn’t lost his eye for goal.
Seven hat-tricks, 12 penalties and four free-kicks are amongst the specifics over how the Portuguese star has hit the back of the net in all competitions this term, and that winner against Barca on Saturday also went some way to proving the doubters wrong over his temperament in the big games.
What appears to be the big difference this season, however, is the togetherness that Ronaldo has shown with his Los Blancos teammates.
Messi has always utilised a fantastic supporting cast at the Nou Camp to help emphasise his own brilliance, and Ronaldo has done exactly the same this season whilst maintaining his place as the star attraction.
Mesut Ozil has created 17 goals for his teammate, whilst Ronaldo has 14 assists himself in all competitions for Madrid this season. That matches his number from last season, which was significantly more than his first year with club, and with games still to play it’s almost certain that his number of assists will increase.
He no longer appears to be trying to do everything himself either, another criticism which has been thrown at Ronaldo in the past. What’s made him a better player is his ability to bring the likes of Karim Benzema and Gonzalo Higuain into the attack on a more frequent basis. Their positions in the goalscoring charts prove that an increased importance has been placed on their role within the club.
But, having said all that, the most important thing of all is victory. Whilst both Madrid and Barcelona have failed on the European stage, the side from the Spanish capital will take the next best price should they seal La Liga this season. With a seven point gap and only four games left, there seems little chance of the Catalan giants reclaiming their crown.
A solitary Copa del Rey would be regarded as failure this season, and Pep Guardiola has already confirmed that it’s his job that will be sacrificed, with the former Spanish international midfielder admitting he’s suffering from burnout in the top job.
That will be of little interest to Mourinho however, who thrives on the individual battle with managerial opponents – much like Ronaldo and Messi thrive on the battle against each other.
And, for this year at least, it’s CR7 who has won the battle. If Portugal do well in Euro 2012, then a second Ballon d’Or could follow, which would of course put him one behind...Lionel Messi.
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