Ronaldo incurred an automatic booking for removing his shirt to celebrate the goal in Real's 3-1 win and two minutes later was sent off for a second yellow card, this time for diving. Incredulous at the decision, he pushed referee Ricardo De Burgos Bengoetxea and was subsequently slapped with a five-game ban, missing Real's opening four Liga games. By the time Ronaldo made his first league appearance of the season in an eventual 1-0 defeat by Real Betis on Sept. 20, Messi was already on a remarkable nine goals, while Madrid were seven points adrift of Barca at that stage. The champions host their bitter rivals on Saturday sitting fourth in the Liga standings, 11 points behind Barca, although they have a game in hand. No side has ever won the Liga after falling eight points behind the leaders.
Who is better, Messi or Ronaldo?— Barcelona Worldwide (@BarcaWorldwide) December 20, 2017
Fernando Torres: "Messi. I have not seen or will ever see a player like Lionel Messi, he dominates all aspects of the game. He is the absolute best in 90% of the categories." pic.twitter.com/uwldCYobxN
Not helped by his lack of match practice, Ronaldo did not open his account in the league until his fourth league game, striking the winner against Getafe, while his second goal did not come until his ninth appearance, against Malaga. His two goals in the last league outing against Sevilla took him to four for the season, his worst campaign so far in nine years in Spain. Twenty one players have scored more than the usually prolific Portuguese in Spain's top flight this season, with Messi leading the way with 14 goals. Ronaldo has compensated for his poor domestic form by maintaining his usual high standards in international competitions. He is the top scorer in this season's Champions League with nine goals and last weekend struck the only goal in the Club World Cup final against Gremio to help Real sign off 2017 with a club record five trophies. His floundering league displays have not affected his self-confidence, either.
? Messi has the edge in La Liga stats since Ronaldo joined in 2009/10.— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) December 19, 2017
Who will have the bigger game this weekend in El Clasico? pic.twitter.com/vtrF8a0Unb