Real Madrid will travel to Camp Nou to lock horns with eternal rivals Barcelona on Saturday, and amidst the sensational story lines, sordid sub-plots and vindictive vendettas of the upcoming Clasico, stand the two best players in the world.
Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi have rewritten the Primera Division record books with one unbelievable display after another this season. The two players are running neck-and-neck not only in the race for the Pichichi but also the Liga title.
The Argentina international broke Barca's all-time official scoring record earlier in the campaign at the tender age of 24 and has an astounding 63 goals to his name in all club competitions in 2011-12. Messi also became the first player in the Champions League era to score five goals in a single match, when he achieved the feat against Bayer Leverkusen on March 7, while joining Jose Altafini as the highest scorer in a single European Cup campaign with 14 strikes.
Ronaldo has been no slouch either as he netted a hat-trick in Los Blancos' opening league game and hasn't looked back since, breaking the record he set last year for the most goals in a Liga season with his 41st against Sporting on April 14 to bring his tally to 53 competitive goals in 49 appearances this term ahead of the Clasico.
The players are enjoying a goal-scoring campaign of epic proportions and still have more matches in which to add to their computer-game like statistics, starting with the crunch clash in Catalunya on Saturday.
Pundits, fans and peers are running out superlatives to describe the two modern attackers but football is a sport rich in history, and has long produced lethal strikers of all different shapes and sizes.
|EUROPE'S TOP 10 GREATEST GOAL-SCORING SEASONS
|Gerd Muller (West Germany)
|Ferenc Deak (Hungary)
|Gyula Zsengeller (Hungary)
|Lionel Messi (Argentina)
|Dixie Dean (England)
|Jimmy McGrory (Scotland)
|Refik Resmja (Albania)
|Jimmy McGrory (Scotland)
|Fred Roberts (Ireland)
|Ferenc Deak (Hungary)
Gerd Muller is possibly the best pure goalscorer the game has ever seen. 'Der Bomber' terrorised opposing back lines during his days at Bayern Munich and was Europe's top scorer twice in 1970 and 1972.
His 67-goal explosion for the Bavarians in the 1972-73 season still stands as the benchmark for all other strikers. Muller toyed with defenders in Germany and was the Bundesliga's leading scorer seven times during his glittering career.
When everything was said and done Muller finished with an astounding 398 goals in 453 games for Bayern.
Ferenc Deak is perhaps the best striker you have never heard of. He scored 66 goals for Hungarian outfit Szentlorinc in 1945-46. He spent one more year with the club before moving to Ferencvarosi where he found the net 59 times in the 1948-49 campaign.
Deak was not allowed to show off his talents at a big European club due to the communist regime in power in Hungary at the time and he remains one of the most under-rated marksmen in the history of the game.
|TOP FIVE NON-EUROPEAN
Gyula Zsengeller starred for Ujpest, scoring 368 goals for the Hungarian club in 303 appearances, 65 of which came in the 1938-39 campaign. His exploits earned him a move to Roma in 1947 but the striker had little success in the Italian capital, only scoring six goals in two years.
Messi needs just four goals to catch Muller and with eight potential games remaining it wouldn't be hard to imagine the diminutive dynamo climbing to the top of the list to cap off what has been a staggering season.
Dixie Dean is a Goodison Park legend to whom all other Everton strikers are measured up to. The Englishman's 63 goals in the 1927-28 season helped the Toffees win the league championship. Dean was a celebrity in his day and a true gentlemen on the field, having never been sent off during his illustrious career.
Jimmy McGrory was prolific in the air despite his small stature and scored 59 goals for Celtic during the 1926-27 campaign. He then surpassed that total the next year when he netted 62. The Hoops icon scored eight times in a game during his 62-goal season and his 550 competitive strikes is still a British record.
Refik Resmja plied his trade for Albanian outfit Partizani Tirana where his claim to fame was the 59 goals he scored in 1950-51 in only 23 encounters.
Fred Roberts scored 40 hat-tricks for Glentoran during his five-year stint at the Irish club, with his most prolific season arriving in 1930-31 when he etched his name on the scoresheet 59 times.
The Clasico is the perfect stage for both Messi and Ronaldo to break more records. The Argentine requires five goals to smash Muller's grand milestone and the Portuguese needs six to break into Europe's top 10 highest scoring seasons, and although that seems unlikely to happen at Camp Nou on Saturday, don't bet against the two goal machines edging closer to become the continent's greatest scorers of all time.