Ronaldo and Messi light up La Liga Real, Barca charge

MADRID - Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi have lit up La Liga with a slew of goals this season and the title race is already shaping up as a duel between Real Madrid and Barcelona.

MADRID - Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi have lit up La Liga with a slew of goals this season and the title race is already shaping up as a duel between Real Madrid and Barcelona.

Portuguese winger Ronaldo, who cost Real a world record ß94million (R1,03billion) in the close season, and the zippy Argentina forward who joined Barca's youth programme at the age of 13, both already have five goals this season.

Barca and Real lead the standings on 12 points with four matches played, three ahead of Sevilla and Athletic Bilbao, with Real hosting promoted Tenerife and Barca at Malaga tomorrow.

"I am feeling confident," said Messi, who signed an improved deal last week that will reportedly earn him ß10,5million (R115million) net a season.

Ronaldo pipped Messi to take the 2008 World Player of the Year award but Messi is widely tipped to win the 2009 crown. Ironically, they have been unable to prevent Portugal and Argentina from struggling to qualify for the 2010 World Cup and there is a real possibility both will miss out.

Barca's big signing of the summer, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, has also had an impact following his move from Inter Milan, making the best ever start by a new signing for the Catalan club.

The Sweden striker has netted once in each of Barca's four matches but suffered a minor ankle sprain in Tuesday's 4-1 win at Racing Santander and is a doubt for the Malaga clash.

At the other end of the table, poor starts for Atletico Madrid and Villarreal have prompted speculation in the Spanish media about the futures of Atletico coach Abel Resino and his Villarreal counterpart Ernesto Valverde.

Both have just two points from their four matches and Resino has been given a particularly hard time by the Atletico fans. - Reuters

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