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Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi race for 2017 Golden Boot as Real Madrid host Barcelona in El Clasico

Posted: 22 December 2017 Time: 14:46

There’s usually little need for any added motivation when it comes to El Clasico, but with Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi neck-and-neck in the race for the year’s top scorer, one of the world’s biggest sporting events has just got a lot bigger.

When Real Madrid and Barcelona butt heads, it usually means top spot in the Spanish La Liga is up for grabs, although Saturday’s Santiago Bernabeu encounter sees Los Blancos trail their bitter rivals by 11 points in the standings, albeit with a game in hand.

And while victory for Madrid would indeed reignite their title defence, Barca’s unbeaten run after the opening 16 league games this season suggests Ernesto Valverde’s men are in no mood to drop eight points in the second-half of the campaign.

League permutations aside, “the most important game in the world” still serves up some of the most scintillating football on the planet, including pitting the world’s two best players against each other.

Messi and Ronaldo find themselves on 53 goals each in a three-way tie for 2017’s top scorer, along with Robert Lewandowski, although the Bayern Munich striker missed the chance to add to his tally after failing to find the net in the Bavarians’ last match of the year, a 2-1 DFB Cup win over rivals Borussia Dortmund on Wednesday.

That gives Barca superstar Messi the chance to gain some personal revenge over his Real Madrid counterpart, with Ronaldo last month having pipped the Argentine to the Ballon d’Or crown for the second successive year, leaving the pair holding the joint-record of five titles each.

As such, Saturday’s capital encounter promises to be a fiercely contested El Clasico, but when has that not been the case before? Game on.

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