standard: For nine seasons, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi pushed each other to greater heights. When one was brilliant, the other followed suit. Over and over again.

Ronaldo left Spain in the summer and many lamented the fact that there will now be no meeting between the two when Real Madrid and Barcelona face off in El Clasico.

But in Europe, they could yet renew their rivalry and this week in the Champions League was just like old times with a remarkable Ronaldo show on Tuesday and then a magical Messi display on Wednesday.

The Portuguese hit a superb hat-trick as Juventus overturned a 2-0 first-leg deficit against Atletico and advanced to the quarter-finals in spectacular style .

The next night, it was Messi’s turn. All of the headlines on Wednesday morning had proclaimed Ronaldo as the “king of the Champions League”. And he has been in recent seasons. But Messi may yet dethrone his rival this season.

The Argentine attacker told the Camp Nou crowd back in August that he would do everything in his power to bring back the trophy at the end of this season. He clearly means it, too. After a goalless game in Lyon last month, Barcelona had to win last night. Messi made sure they did.

The 31-year-old opened the scoring with an exquisite Panenka penalty and that set the tone for a night which will go down as yet another masterpiece in his collection of classic works.

After Philippe Coutinho had made it 2-0, Messi dropped deep in his own half three times at the end of the opening period to win the ball back. He was everywhere for Barca and for the Blaugrana, he is everything.

When Lyon sniffed the possibility of a comeback in the second half at 2-1, needing just one more to level the tie and take the upper hand on away goals, Messi intervened. ‘Not on my watch’, he seemed to say.

The Argentine attacker told the Camp Nou crowd back in August that he would do everything in his power to bring back the trophy at the end of this season. He clearly means it, too. After a goalless game in Lyon last month, Barcelona had to win last night. Messi made sure they did.

The 31-year-old opened the scoring with an exquisite Panenka penalty and that set the tone for a night which will go down as yet another masterpiece in his collection of classic works.

After Philippe Coutinho had made it 2-0, Messi dropped deep in his own half three times at the end of the opening period to win the ball back. He was everywhere for Barca and for the Blaugrana, he is everything.

When Lyon sniffed the possibility of a comeback in the second half at 2-1, needing just one more to level the tie and take the upper hand on away goals, Messi intervened. ‘Not on my watch’, he seemed to say.

The luck was well earned and that was the goal that finished off the tie. Still, though, there was more to come as Messi assisted Gerard Pique and also Dembele in the final minutes to set up a formidable 5-1 win.

Over the two legs, that was just about the difference between the two teams, even if the penalty awarded to Barca in this match had been fortunate as Luis Suarez stamped on Jason Denayer and not the other way around.

“Messi’s match was incredible,” coach Ernesto Valverde said afterwards. And asked by a journalist about how the Argentine was back defending as well as starring in attack, he said: “It’s not a surprise because we know him. But even then, he always surprises you.”

And Lyon coach Bruno Genesio said: “He was ultra-motivated. He is one of the best players from any era. He did what Cristiano did for Juve. He catapulted his team.”

Messi was asked about Ronaldo in the mixed zone and said: “Cristiano and Juventus, that was amazing. I thought that Atletico would be stronger, but Cristiano had a magical night.”

Those words dignify him and after a magical night of his own, a meeting between the two later in the competition is still on. Led by their brilliant Argentine, Barcelona are keen to show that they are the kings in the Champions League this season. And not just the kings of Lyon.

Source: Published by standard

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