Yet again, Messi and Ronaldo thriving when it matters most

 
 
Updated 3/8/2018 10:04 AM
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  • Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo heads the ball to score his side's first goal passing PSG goalkeeper Alphonse Areola during the Champions League round of sixteen second leg soccer match between Paris St. Germain and Real Madrid at the Parc des Princes stadium in Paris, France, Tuesday, March 6, 2018.

    Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo heads the ball to score his side's first goal passing PSG goalkeeper Alphonse Areola during the Champions League round of sixteen second leg soccer match between Paris St. Germain and Real Madrid at the Parc des Princes stadium in Paris, France, Tuesday, March 6, 2018. Associated Press

  • Real Madrid's scorers Casemiro, left, and Cristiano Ronaldo wave to their fans after the round of 16, 2nd leg Champions League soccer match between Paris Saint-Germain and Real Madrid at the Parc des Princes Stadium in Paris, Tuesday, March 6, 2018. Real Madrid won 2-1.

    Real Madrid's scorers Casemiro, left, and Cristiano Ronaldo wave to their fans after the round of 16, 2nd leg Champions League soccer match between Paris Saint-Germain and Real Madrid at the Parc des Princes Stadium in Paris, Tuesday, March 6, 2018. Real Madrid won 2-1. Associated Press

  • FC Barcelona's Lionel Messi reacts after scoring during the Spanish La Liga soccer match between FC Barcelona and Atletico Madrid at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, Spain, Sunday, March 4, 2018.

    FC Barcelona's Lionel Messi reacts after scoring during the Spanish La Liga soccer match between FC Barcelona and Atletico Madrid at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, Spain, Sunday, March 4, 2018. Associated Press

  • FC Barcelona's Lionel Messi reacts after scoring during the Spanish La Liga soccer match between FC Barcelona and Atletico Madrid at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, Spain, Sunday, March 4, 2018.

    FC Barcelona's Lionel Messi reacts after scoring during the Spanish La Liga soccer match between FC Barcelona and Atletico Madrid at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, Spain, Sunday, March 4, 2018. Associated Press

  • FC Barcelona's Lionel Messi kicks the ball to score during the Spanish La Liga soccer match between FC Barcelona and Atletico Madrid at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, Spain, Sunday, March 4, 2018.

    FC Barcelona's Lionel Messi kicks the ball to score during the Spanish La Liga soccer match between FC Barcelona and Atletico Madrid at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, Spain, Sunday, March 4, 2018. Associated Press

MADRID -- One is keeping Barcelona in contention for a treble, and the other is putting Real Madrid in position to clinch a third straight Champions League title.

Of course, it's Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo - and it's not the least bit surprising that they are stepping up at just the right time for their teams.

Messi has scored 32 goals in 41 matches for Spanish-league leader Barcelona this season, while Ronaldo has 31 from 33 for two-time defending Champions League champion Madrid.

Ronaldo has been the more lethal one in recent weeks, scoring 11 goals in his last six matches as the league title slips away but the Champions League becomes all the more important. Three of his latest goals came in the 5-2 aggregate win over Paris Saint-Germain in the last 16 of the Champions League.

Scoring goals in Europe's most prestigious club competition is nothing new, however. Ronaldo is the all-time leading scorer in the tournament with 117.

Messi has been pretty impressive, too. The Argentina forward has scored five goals in his last five matches, including the lone strike in the 1-1 draw against Chelsea in the first leg of the last 16 in the Champions League. The second leg is Wednesday at the Camp Nou in Barcelona.

"There is no player like Messi in the world," said Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde, perhaps even understating the value of a guy who has helped the club win eight league titles and four Champions League titles in his 14 years with the team.

Barcelona leads the Spanish league and is still alive in the Copa del Rey. Madrid, however, trails the leaders by 15 points in the league and has already been eliminated from the cup competition.

That leaves the Champions League as the main head-to-head competition for the two players who have split the last 10 FIFA player of the year awards.

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More AP Spanish soccer coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/LaLiga

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Tales Azzoni on Twitter: http://twitter.com/tazzoni

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