Ronaldo’s 5 goals rekindle scoring duel with Messi in Spain
BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Cristiano Ronaldo’s devastating five-goal performance on Sunday has rekindled his ongoing duel with rival Lionel Messi to see which star ends the season as the Spanish league’s top scorer.
Messi will get his turn to torment a struggling Almeria on Wednesday, when Barcelona aims to protect its four-point lead over Ronaldo’s Real Madrid at the top of the standings.
Later that evening, Madrid crosses the Spanish capital to face Rayo Vallecano and looks to maintain its momentum from Sunday when Ronaldo struck five times in its 9-1 destruction of Granada.
“We are prepared to win all our games until the end of the season,” said Madrid midfielder James Rodriguez. “We have the talent and the confidence to do so.”
Here are some more things to know about the 30th round of the Spanish league:
Messi and Ronaldo have led the Spanish league in scoring for the past five seasons, and this year is proving to be the most intense shootout of all.
Ronaldo surged ahead at the start of the campaign for what appeared to be an unassailable lead of 23 goals to Messi’s 13 through 15 rounds.
Messi then went on a scoring streak of his own to help Barcelona move ahead of Madrid in the standings and edge Ronaldo 32-30 in their individual contest.
But Ronaldo has struck six goals in his last two games, including his first career five-goal match, to take a 36-32 lead.
Ronaldo should get opportunities to increase his goal tally against a Rayo side that likes to live dangerously with its high defensive line and pressing style.
But despite conceding the fourth most goals, 51, of the 20-team league, Rayo has risen to ninth place after winning its last three games overall and the last four at Vallecas Stadium.
Rayo’s run has been led by forward Alberto Bueno, who has scored eight of his team-high 16 goals in his last seven games.
“Beating Madrid is obviously a huge challenge, but we are in very good form right now and when we are playing like this we are unpredictable,” said Rayo coach Paco Jemez. “We have tons of respect for Madrid, but not one bit of fear. If they have to put five goals past us, so be it, because they are very good, but we will go out there to win.”
As Barcelona players, Luis Enrique and Sergi Barjuan spent seven years on the same team. Now as coaches, the former teammates will turn rivals when Almeria visits Camp Nou.
Barjuan was named Almeria’s third coach of the season on Monday. The club says he will be on the sideline on Wednesday “if all the necessary paperwork is complete.”
Barjuan inherits a team winless in seven rounds and in the relegation zone.
“It’s one of life’s coincidences,” Barjuan said. “It doesn’t matter that it’s Barcelona or any other team. We have little time left and have to make the most of it.”
NOW OR NEVER
If bottom side Cordoba is going to save its season, a win at Deportivo La Coruna on Wednesday will be a good place to start.
Cordoba is eight points from safety after losing 10 matches in a row, and another loss would go a long way to sending it down to the second division.
Deportivo is in 17th place, the last team currently clinging to safety, but it hasn’t won in seven rounds.