Madrid: Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi's exploits are quickly turning the Spanish league title chase into a shootout between Europe's most prolific goalscorers.
Ronaldo's 11 goals have guided Real Madrid to the top of the standings after nine games while Barcelona trails by one point thanks in part to Messi's seven strikes.
Ronaldo, Messi lead Spanish twin giants to impressive wins
The two forwards, who are also the top two scorers in the Spanish league, appear to be locked in an increasingly personal duel, too.
Ronaldo scored four in response to Messi's brace last week, while the Argentina forward added another double in Saturday's 5-0 win over Sevilla - right after Ronaldo scored two in the last eight minutes of a 3-1 win at Hercules.
"I feel phenomenal," Ronaldo said. "I am in great form. I have scored and I am happy that we are still leaders."
In a duel between the last two World Player of Year winners, Ronaldo has 12 goals in 13 games overall compared to Messi's 14 from 12. Ronaldo has scored a Madrid record 10 goals in his last four league matches, while Messi has notched braces in his last three domestic appearances.
Madrid's press is already talking up Ronaldo's chances of breaking the league's all-time record of 38 goals in a season.
Monday's cover of sports daily AS read "Cristiano, going after Zarra and Hugo," in reference to Athletic Bilbao legend Telmo Zarra and Real Madrid's Hugo Sanchez, the Pichichi holders from the 1950-51 and 1989-90 seasons, respectively.
Messi, meanwhile, has his sights on improving last season's overall total of 47 goals in all competitions, when he helped the Spanish champion to a record six major trophies in one campaign.
"A player like him only comes around once every 50 years," teammate Xavi Hernandez was quoted as saying on FIFA.com on Monday. "Leo is now even better than (Diego) Maradona was."Brazil recall Ronaldinho for Argentina friendly
And the pair's heroics couldn't have come at a better time as the highly anticipated "clasico" match between the Spanish giants approaches.
Madrid coach Jose Mourinho, one of the few coaches to get the better of Barcelona over his career, has already begun the war of words ahead of the November 28 match at the Camp Nou.
"That just bounces off of us," said Messi, who has been key to the Catalan club winning four straight over Madrid. "He's looking to get under our skin so we play his game, but we won't. We shouldn't give importance to what Mourinho says."