The first El Clásico of 2013 is shaping up to be, well, an instant classic.
Fans are lucky enough to be treated to a Barcelona-Real Madrid matchup at least twice per season in La Liga play, but thanks to the Super Cup, Copa del Rey and Champions League, there are usually several more instances of what is arguably the best rivalry in the world.
As a result, we often forget just how scintillating these heated battles can get. The first leg of the semifinal of the Copa del Rey, however, is shaping up to be a reminder of how paramount Barca vs. Real truly is.
Why will this one be a cut above the rest, you ask?
Simple. Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.
While both clubs have an excess of all-world players covering the pitch (and the bench), it's understandably Ronaldo and Messi who always garner a majority of the attention.
They aren't just the best goal-scoring threats on their respective clubs, but they are the two best players in the world.
According to WhoScored.com, Messi is No. 1 in La Liga with 33 goals and an average match rating of 9.01, while Ronaldo is second with 21 tallies and a rating of 8.09.
No one is close to either of them.
Throw in the fact that the two superstars are of similar age and are the unquestioned leaders of two of the top squads in the world, and it's no surprise they constantly get compared to each other.
While it's probably an unfair comparison—both players are otherworldly in their own, unique ways—it makes for a good narrative and only further enhances the intrigue of El Clásico.
And those who enjoy comparing Ronaldo and Messi every single time the massive rivalry rolls around were probably giddy with glee as Sunday's matches were unfolding.
In a 4-0 win over Getafe, Ronaldo led Madrid with a thoroughly clinical second-half hat trick:
As ESPN's John Brewin points out, the rate at which Ronaldo is racking up hat tricks for the Spanish side is staggering:
Ronaldo scoring 19 hat-tricks for Real Madrid borders on breaking the obscenity laws.— John Brewin (@JohnBrewinESPN) January 27, 2013
Of course, Messi wasn't to be outdone. The 25-year-old looked unstoppable in a 5-1 win over Osasuna, finding the back of the net four times in the first 58 minutes:
Realistically, the dynamic, do-everything superstar probably could have doubled that tally if he wanted to.
So here we are.
Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, the two near-gods of the sport who are tirelessly compared to each other and just days away from once again going head-to-head in one of the world's biggest rivalries, are both coming off the most unstoppable performances of the season.
Each stud is clearly at the top of his game (if there is even a ceiling for either of them), and it is coming at the perfect time.
Prepare yourselves for El Clásico Colosal.