Messi and Ronaldo Watch: Messi Bags Another Brace, Real Madrid Held to Draw

Michael Cummings@MikeCummings37World Football Lead WriterDecember 17, 2012

BARCELONA, SPAIN - DECEMBER 16:  A pitch invader celebrates after embraces Lionel Messi of Barcelona during the la Liga match between FC Barcelona and Club Atletico de Madrid at the Camp Nou stadium on December 16, 2012 in Barcelona, Spain.  (Photo by Jasper Juinen/Getty Images)
Jasper Juinen/Getty Images

Lionel Messi cannot stop scoring. And as each goal flies in, it's looking increasingly like Barcelona cannot be stopped in La Liga.

Messi scored twice more in the league Sunday as Barca routed second-placed Atletico Madrid 4-1 at Camp Nou. The win sent Messi and company nine points clear atop the table and left Real Madrid manager Jose Mourinho saying the "league title seems almost impossible" (via RealMadrid.com).

Those are strong words, and they came after yet another strong Barcelona performance. So are Cristiano Ronaldo and Real Madrid out of the title race?

There will be plenty of time to debate that. For now, let's look at how Messi and Ronaldo performed this week.

Messi's Latest Brace

Messi scored twice as Barcelona came from a goal behind to beat Atletico Madrid 4-1 in league play over the weekend.

Atleti's Radamel Falcao opened the scoring with a brilliant solo effort in the 31st minute before Adriano equalized for Barcelona with perhaps the game's best goal. Sergio Busquets put Barca ahead just before the break, and Messi added two more in the second half.

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Messi's first, a tidy low finish after dribbling across the top of the box, came in the 57th minute (video above). He completed the rout with a poached goal two minutes before the final whistle.

Late in the match, a fan ran onto the pitch and hugged Messi.

The goals were Messi's 89th and 90th of 2012, a FIFA world record. He has scored two goals in a match 22 times for Barcelona, including each of his last eight starts.

The win sent Barcelona nine points clear atop the table.

Barcelona defender Gerard Pique said that "only we can lose La Liga" (via FCBarcelona.com). Atletico manager Diego Simeone expressed a similar—if more colorful—sentiment (via ESPN FC):

"Messi is the best player in the world. We brought out our best weapons, but Barcelona is playing at a different level. You can't do anything against their determination. This league is boring."

Real Madrid Held

Real Madrid drew 2-2 at home to Espanyol on Sunday to fall further behind Barcelona in the title race. Ronaldo scored late in the first half, but Real blew a second-half lead.

Mourinho's team now sit 13 points behind Barcelona. Second-placed Atletico Madrid are four points ahead of Real.

Ronaldo's goal drew him level with Gento as Real Madrid's sixth-highest scorer in La Liga. He has scored 126 goals in 117 appearances (via RealMadrid.com).

His goal against Espanyol can be seen in the video above.

Copa del Rey Action

Real Madrid lost 2-1 in a Copa del Rey Round of 16 first-leg match at Celta Vigo on Wednesday. Cristiano Ronaldo scored Real's lone goal in the 88th minute.

Ronaldo's individual highlights from the match can be seen here.

The second leg is scheduled for Jan. 9 at the Bernabeu.

Barcelona, meanwhile, won 2-0 at Cordoba on Wednesday to set up a potentially simple second leg Jan. 10 at Camp Nou.

Messi scored both goals, with one coming in each half. The goals can be seen in the video above.

Keeping Track and Looking Ahead

Messi leads La Liga with 25 goals this season. He has scored 34 goals in all competitions.

For the year 2012, he has scored 90 goals for club and country.

Barcelona's last match of 2012, an away game at Valladolid in La Liga, is scheduled for Saturday.

Ronaldo is third in La Liga with 14 goals this season. He has scored 23 times in all competitions.

Real close out 2012 with a trip to Malaga in La Liga on Saturday.

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