MADRID (AP) There couldn’t be a better time for Lionel Messi to end his scoring drought than in the clasico against Real Madrid.
With Barcelona struggling and desperately needing a victory to stay close to its rival in the Spanish league, Messi could help turn things around on Saturday if he can find the net again after five scoreless games against Madrid.
Barcelona enters the home game at Camp Nou six points behind Madrid, and another setback could leave it in a difficult position to fight for a third straight league title.
Messi hasn’t played badly in recent clasicos, but his last goal against Madrid came almost three years ago when he had a hat trick in a 4-3 win at Santiago Bernabeu Stadium.
He hasn’t scored in the four games since, not even in the stunning 4-0 win at the Bernabeu last season, when Messi came off the bench in the second half after a long injury layoff. Barcelona has won two of the last five games against Madrid, but it’s been 400 minutes since Messi last scored.
Since that hat trick in March 2014, Cristiano Ronaldo has attracted most of the headlines in the clasico, having scored three times, including the late game-winner at Camp Nou last season that ended Barcelona’s record 39-game unbeaten streak.
“They’re two exceptional players,” Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane said. “Cristiano is doing exceptional, incredible things, I hope he carries on like this.”
Messi remains the all-time leading scorer in the clasico with 21 in 32 matches, but at Camp Nou it’s been Ronaldo who has thrived the most.
He has 10 goals in 12 games in Barcelona, including five in the last five matches and eight in the last nine. He failed to find the net only in four of those 12 games. Messi netted only five times in those same 12 encounters in Catalonia.
Ronaldo has scored in each of the last two league games between them at the Camp Nou. He has 16 goals in 25 clasicos, behind only Messi (21) and Alfredo Di Stefano (18).
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Messi has 15 goals in the 25 clasicos in which he and Ronaldo faced each other.
Ronaldo, who recently netted a hat trick in the Madrid derby against Atletico, is the Spanish league leading scorer with 10, one more than Messi. Ronaldo has eight goals in his last four league matches.
Messi also has been playing well recently, having scored five goals in his last four games. He has netted 16 in his last 11 matches.
Barcelona is coming off three consecutive draws, two in the league and one in the Copa del Rey.
Madrid is enjoying a 32-game unbeaten streak under Zidane.
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