Quique Setien insisted there were still "many turns" left in the LaLiga title race after Barcelona gave up top spot with an El Clasico loss to Real Madrid.

Vinicius Junior and Mariano Diaz scored in the second half as Madrid claimed a 2-0 win at the Santiago Bernabeu on Sunday.

Madrid jumped a point clear courtesy of their victory, but Barcelona coach Setien said there was still plenty to play out.

"Last week, we were two points up. Now, they are one up. There is much left and this [title race] can take many turns," he said, via Mundo Deportivo.

Setien added: "It's a tough defeat because these games affect you when you lose them, obviously, but we have the ability to recover.

"There are positive things to rescue and we will analyse what we have not done well."

The loss ended a four-game LaLiga winning streak for Barcelona, who sit nine points clear of third place.

Setien was pleased with the way his side started El Clasico, but felt they lost their way in the second half.

"I think we did a good first half and they did it in the second," he said.

"Even at the beginning of the second half we started quite well and we had it under control, but we started to have inaccuracies and they squeezed us very hard."

Real Madrid went into Sunday's El Clasico fully aware that defeat could have proven ruinous to their season, leaving a five-point gap at the LaLiga summit after they suffered a massive midweek blow in the Champions League.

Zinedine Zidane and Madrid were tactically outclassed in their own stadium on Wednesday, with Manchester City coming away from the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie with a potentially vital 2-1 win.

Pep Guardiola exposed their weaknesses with a switch of formation and system to focus on troubling Madrid behind their attack-minded full-backs – chiefly with Gabriel Jesus on the left. It proved decisive.

Barca coach Quique Setien confirmed in his pre-match news conference that he met with City boss Guardiola after that match, acknowledging there were elements of City's set-up that Barca would look to expose, aware they could "come in handy".

But there's little doubt Zidane learned his lesson, and his tweaks inspired Madrid's 2-0 Clasico win.

ZIZOU GETS IT RIGHT

He set Madrid up proactively with two holding midfielders, and Vinicius Junior and Federico Valverde out wide, the latter two sat deep off the ball to essentially form a flat midfield.

The lung-busting Valverde's presence on the right ensured Jordi Alba had little luck in attack and plenty to think about at the back.

Pragmatic? Perhaps, but Madrid's formation undoubtedly contributed to limiting Barca's supply of chances, with Messi kept uncharacteristically quiet.

Toni Kroos' restoration to the starting XI after missing out against City was arguably the real key for Madrid, though.

KROOS CONTROL

The German's exclusion in midweek came as something of a shock and without him Madrid's overall pass completion was 86.5 per cent, and that increased to 88.2 per cent with him. Although minor in those terms, every little helps in matches of fine margins.

Against City, Madrid rarely looked in control and their move construction from midfield when transitioning was rather scattergun, Kroos' composure and vision obviously missed.

Upon his return, Kroos barely put a foot wrong all match. Suddenly Madrid seemed far more effective at picking their way through a press, as evidenced by the numerous counter-attacks they were able to launch on Sunday.

Kroos was accurate with 99 per cent of his passes and then played the decisive ball for Vinicius to put Madrid ahead, slipping the Brazilian into the left side of the box and he beat Marc-Andre ter Stegen with a little help from a Gerard Pique deflection.

MESSI FAILS TO SLICE THROUGH MADRID

Like Kroos, Messi was also tidy in possession, hitting his mark with 95 per cent of his passes. But he laid on only a single goal-scoring chance, while he was thwarted by Thibaut Courtois for his most presentable opportunity in the first half.

Messi set a new record for Clasico appearances by a Barca player – it was set up for a fittingly devastating performance to put one hand on the title.

But Barca's talisman simply failed to instigate effectively against Madrid's packed midfield, potentially leading to questions about his fitness after he was spotted seemingly limping earlier in the day.

And therein lies Barca's biggest problem: if Messi fails to turn the screw, they have no one else capable to rising to that level.

With Cristiano Ronaldo watching on in the stands, Messi's magic was in disappointingly short supply – but masterful Kroos validated Zidane's decision to recall him by steering Madrid to a potentially season-defining victory as they returned to LaLiga's summit.

Vinicius Junior broke Barcelona's resistance and substitute Mariano Diaz added a second as Real Madrid leapfrogged their bitter rivals at the top of LaLiga with a 2-0 win in Sunday's Clasico.

December's reverse fixture finished goalless for the first time in 17 years and that was the way this latest tussle at Santiago Bernabeu was heading until Vinicius struck with a deflected effort.

Thibaut Courtois and Marc-Andre ter Stegen made vital saves with the game at 0-0 and both teams had efforts stopped on the line.

But Vinicius found a way through 19 minutes from time and Mariano added a second late on to end Madrid's seven-match winless league run in this fixture as Zidane's side moved a point clear at the summit.

Vinicius Junior's strike in Real Madrid's LaLiga showdown with rivals Barcelona saw him replace Lionel Messi as the youngest Clasico goalscorer this century.

At the ripe age of 19 years, 233 days, Vinicius' deflected shot in the 71st minute put Madrid ahead at the Santiago Bernabeu on Sunday.

The diminutive forward eclipsed Barca superstar Messi, who was 26 days older when he scored his maiden Clasico goal in March 2007.

Messi was a peripheral figure as Madrid climbed above reigning champions Barca to the top of the table, with substitute Mariano Diaz completing a 2-0 victory.

Lionel Messi is set to become the player with the most appearances in El Clasico for Barcelona after being named in the starting line-up to take on Real Madrid on Sunday.

The Argentina superstar will edge past Xavi as he racks up his 43rd outing in the biggest domestic fixture in world football at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Messi is the fixture's leading goalscorer, having netted 26 times against Barca's great rivals.

Barca head into the match, Quique Setien's first Clasico at the helm, two points ahead of their rivals at the top of LaLiga.

The visitors boast a seven-match unbeaten run against Madrid in top-flight meetings, with the Camp Nou showdown in December having finished goalless.

While Barcelona's only change from the side that drew 1-1 with Napoli on Tuesday saw Arthur take Ivan Rakitic's place in midfield, Zinedine Zidane made two adjustments to the Madrid team that lost 2-1 to Manchester City in midweek.

Ferland Mendy and Luka Modric dropped to the bench as Marcelo returned at left back and Toni Kroos started in midfield, while Gareth Bale had to settle for a place among the substitutes.

While all eyes are on El Clasico, Real Madrid and Barcelona are considering their number nine options ahead of next season.

The LaLiga giants, who meet at the Santiago Bernabeu on Sunday, appear set to strengthen their options up front ahead of 2020-21.

And both Madrid and Barca are linked with similar names as they look to add forwards.

 

TOP STORY – MADRID, BARCELONA CONSIDER WERNER, MARTINEZ AND HAALAND

With Luka Jovic so far unable to make an impact at Real Madrid, they are considering Borussia Dortmund star Erling Haaland, Inter striker Lautaro Martinez and RB Leipzig's Timo Werner, according to Marca.

Haaland is top of Madrid's wish list, the report says, having scored 12 goals in nine games since arriving at Dortmund in January.

For Barcelona, meanwhile, Mundo Deportivo says their focus is on Martinez or Werner, who has been linked with Liverpool.

While Martinez may be their preference, Werner would cost just €60million compared to the €111m likely to be needed for the Argentina international.

 

ROUND-UP

- Another club likely to be busy during the close season are Manchester United. The Sun reports United are ready to offer Aston Villa midfielder Jack Grealish £150,000 per week – triple his current pay.

- Jonathan David's prolific season with Gent is leading to increasing interest. The Daily Express reports Chelsea are the latest club to join the race for David, who has 23 goals in 38 games this season. Liverpool, United, Tottenham and Leicester City are also reportedly interested in the 20-year-old Canada international.

- Nuno Espirito Santo's work at Wolves is catching the eye. The Sun reports Nuno is top of Atletico Madrid's list to replace Diego Simeone if the Argentinian takes over at Paris Saint-Germain.

- Heavily linked with a move to Milan last close season, Atletico Madrid attacker Angel Correa remains a target for the Serie A club, according to CalcioMercato.

- Having impressed in Serie A, Chris Smalling could be set for a return to the Premier League. The Daily Express reports the defender, who is on loan at Roma from Manchester United, is a target for Tottenham, although the Serie A club are in advanced talks with the centre-back.

- With his contract expiring in 2021, Arkadiusz Milik's future at Napoli is uncertain. CalcioMercato reports the striker, who has 12 goals in 22 games this season, and the club are distant over a new deal.

Gareth Bale is a player in need of some home comforts when Real Madrid face off against Barcelona in a crucial Clasico in LaLiga on Sunday.

The Wales forward has endured a frustrating barren run for Los Blancos at the Santiago Bernabeu and it has now been 12 calendar months since his last home goal.

Bale last celebrated a LaLiga goal in front of his home supporters in a 2-0 triumph over Celta Vigo on March 16, 2019 and it would certainly be a welcome time to end the wait against new table-toppers Barca.

But just how does Bale's record over the last year stack up against his fellow Madrid forwards? With the help of Opta data, we have taken a look.


BALE'S BARREN RUN PART OF WIDER ISSUE?

Madrid have faced questions over their goal-scoring abilities since selling Cristiano Ronaldo to Juventus ahead of the 2018-19 season and the evidence suggests their forwards are struggling collectively to share the burden at home.

Since March 16 last year, Karim Benzema has done his part to pick up the slack with an impressive 18 in 20 Bernabeu appearances in LaLiga.

Beyond that, the reading is a little grim. Rodrygo Goes has an impressive six in 10 but the only other players with more than one are Isco (two in 13) and Mariano Diaz (two from two).

Bale has not scored in 10 outings, albeit only five of those were from the start, with Lucas Vazquez and Brahim Diaz also goalless from 12 and seven home appearances respectively.

Vinicius Junior (one in 14), Eden Hazard (one in nine), Luka Jovic (one in nine) and James Rodriguez (one in five) all have a solitary strike to their name.


ARE MADRID SHOT-SHY?

Bale's lack of goals is not for the want of trying. His 20 shots attempted at the Bernabeu are beaten only by Benzema (87) and Vinicius (26) during the time period in question.

Hazard (13), Rodrygo (13), Isco (11), Vazquez (10) and Jovic (10) all have significantly fewer shots, while James has 11 from his five appearances so has a similar ratio to Bale.

More worryingly, though, is the fact just three of Bale's attempts have been on target. Vinicius (14), Isco (seven), Rodrygo (seven) and Hazard (seven) have all worked visiting goalkeepers more, while Benzema is once again the standout performer with 43 efforts on target.

Mariano (four) has more shots on target, while Vazquez (three) and Brahim (three) tally the same as Bale. Jovic (two) and James (two) are the only two with fewer, though the latter has played in five fewer games.


STRUGGLING TO CREATE?

A lack of goals is not necessarily the only concern for Bale. He has just two LaLiga assists at the Bernabeu since his last home goal and created just five chances.

Hazard only has one assist but has created 17 opportunities, while Vinicius has three and 18 in the respective categories.

Vinicius is one of only two players with more assists than Bale, though. Benzema unsurprisingly leads the way on eight, Brahim also has two, while Vazquez, Rodrygo, Jovic and James all only have one.

In terms of chances created, Vinicius (18), Vazquez (17), Rodrygo (12), Isco (11), Brahim (eight) and James (eight) all have more than Bale. Benzema, who has played more than any other forward in this time, has 37.

Luka Jovic is a high-profile exclusion from the Real Madrid squad for Sunday's El Clasico against Barcelona, with Mariano Diaz potentially set for a first LaLiga appearance of the season.

Jovic, 22, was signed from Eintracht Frankfurt for a reported €60million at the start of the campaign, but he has had little impact with Los Blancos, making only 15 LaLiga appearances and scoring twice.

His last league outing was 20 days ago, scoring in a two-minute cameo in the 4-1 win over Osasuna, and although he was a late substitute against Manchester City in the Champions League on Wednesday, Jovic is not a part of the latest squad despite training on Saturday.

Jovic's exclusion comes just a few hours after Madrid-based publication Marca reported the club have decided to invest in a new striker at the end of the season, with Erling Haaland, Lautaro Martinez, Timo Werner and Kylian Mbappe mentioned as potential targets.

Mariano could take advantage of seemingly moving up in the pecking order, with the 26-year-old yet to make an appearance in LaLiga this term.

The former Lyon attacker's season has been interrupted by niggling injuries, however for much of the first half of the campaign he simply was not picked, Zinedine Zidane naming him on the bench just once.

Rodrygo is absent due to suspension, as he was sent off for Real Madrid Castilla last weekend.

Madrid, who have not won either of their past two league games, go into the match two points behind leaders Barca.

Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane stressed Toni Kroos' absence from his team in midweek was a tactical decision and he told reporters to stop looking for another meaning behind the omission.

Germany international Kroos was surprisingly left out of Los Blancos' starting line-up for the first leg of the Champions League last-16 tie against Manchester City, which Madrid lost 2-1.

The 30-year-old had started five of Madrid's six group games and Zidane confirmed after the loss that there was no injury, though Kroos did not even make it onto the pitch.

Madrid face Barcelona in Sunday's El Clasico, with Kroos training as normal on Saturday, and despite suggestions there could be a rift developing between player and coach, Zidane was quick to shut down such talk.

"Always when there is a bad result you look for something," he told reporters.

"We did not lose because he didn't play.

"There are things that can happen in a specific moment, in a match, and we have chosen this team.

"Those who came in played well and I chose a different alternative to Toni Kroos the other day. There's nothing else.

"You do not have to look for other things."

Luka Modric, Casemiro and Federico Valverde all started in midfield against City, with Kroos having started in Madrid's previous two LaLiga games, neither of which they won.

Zidane's side host Barcelona on Sunday knowing a third successive defeat in all competitions would leave them five points behind the leaders in the title race.

 

Zinedine Zidane claimed he has given little thought to whether his job security hinges on winning LaLiga as Real Madrid bid to get back on track against Barcelona on Sunday.

Madrid go into the latest Clasico having won just one of their past five games in all competitions, with the LaLiga loss at Levante followed up by a home midweek defeat to Manchester City in the Champions League.

Should they crash to a third straight loss in Sunday's crucial game at the Santiago Bernabeu, reigning champions Barca would go five points clear in the title race with 12 games remaining.

Madrid are already out of the Copa del Rey and face a big task to avoid exiting the Champions League at the last-16 stage, yet Zidane said he is not worried about whether he needs to win LaLiga to stay in his job.

"I don't know, that question is for someone else," he said at a news conference on Saturday.

"I know what I need to do. We're going to try and win a competition this season, that's what we're working towards."

Barca will arrive in the Spanish capital buoyed by the fact they have not lost a league Clasico at the Bernabeu since 2014.

Moreover, Madrid are winless in three games at home, with Zidane acknowledging the situation is far from ideal ahead of a fixture with their big rivals.

"It is a delicate moment because there are three games that we have not won in the stadium," the Frenchman admitted.

"But the ones who know about football know that these things can happen.

"We need a positive spirit. We do not listen to what is said. We need our people with us from the first minute to 90.

"I understand that the people may be upset but we need the people and we will give everything."

Part of the problem has been a lack of goals.

Top scorer Karim Benzema has not found the net in his previous five appearances and Sergio Ramos is the only other Madrid player to have scored more than three times in the league.

Though Eden Hazard will be absent due to injury, and Gareth Bale has gone almost an entire year without scoring at home, Zidane highlighted how Madrid were unbeaten between October and February.

"I am not worried because for four months we were winning games," he said of the lack of goals.

"Even without Eden. I don't like that he is injured, but we have won. We need to be solid."

Quique Setien does not believe victory in Sunday's Clasico would be enough to clinch the LaLiga title for Barcelona and suggests Real Madrid's difficult run will have no impact on the match.

Barca are two points clear of their fierce rivals at the top of the table heading into the clash at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Madrid are winless in three games in all competitions, losing their past two matches to Levante in the league and Manchester City in the Champions League, but Setien does not believe their title challenge will be over if his Barca side consign them to another defeat.

"It could be a very important day," the Barcelona head coach said during a news conference on Saturday. "A win would give us a lead. I don't know if that would be enough - I'm sure it wouldn't.

"We see very strange things happen in football, but I don't really trust form too much. In football, you put the past behind you. It's the present that you're rewarded on.

"In a Clasico, people tend to forget about the points, positions in the tables. This is a Clasico where both teams always play as hard as they can regardless of the situation they're in.

"I expect a very tightly contested game, very evenly matched. The question is who gets things right to win the game."

He added: "For Madrid, it is a vital game - probably much more important than it is for us, because of the situation in the table at the moment and the amount of time that's left.

"We could pick up a five-point lead, which would be a big step forward. It would leave them with a lot of ground to make up. I don't like the word decisive, it's certainly important."

Setien won twice at the Bernabeu while coach at Real Betis, and he expects those experiences to aid him this weekend.

Asked if previous victories were a help, he replied: "Yes, of course. We've looked back at some of the games played before - the game Barca played last year, the game Betis played last year.

"You tried to pick out things that could be useful. We certainly want to play with a daring team tomorrow - Madrid will, I'm sure, do likewise. We are a team that always plays the way we do.

"I'll do something similar to what I did with Betis and with Las Palmas, now with Barca. I like a daring team.

"Whether things work out, let's wait and see. You have to remember that Madrid are a very, very good team. You might think they are not at their best at the moment, but I'm not trusting to that kind of thing.

"You need to be ready for games like this - when we've got the ball and when we do not."

Jordi Alba has been named in the Barcelona squad to face Real Madrid, but head coach Quique Setien is unsure what part the full-back will play in Sunday's Clasico.

Alba injured his right adductor against Getafe on February 15, with Junior Firpo subsequently filling in at left-back against Eibar and Napoli.

However, Alba was on Saturday included in Setien's 18-man selection for the trip to the Santiago Bernabeu.

Setien told a news conference: "The fact is he's very well at the moment, a positive sensation. Clearly you have seen I've put him in the squad.

"The question now is whether he will start the game or not. We're not sure. It depends how he's feeling tomorrow, if he's feeling the same as today.

"He's got another day, but he's looking confident. Let's see whether we play him to start with or not. I haven't decided yet."

Barca boss Setien kept his cards close to his chest, but revealed Alba was not the only player he would be making a late call on, adding: "No, I've got others."

However, Barca should also be boosted by the presence of Gerard Pique in the centre of defence, with the former Manchester United man fit despite suffering an ankle knock against Napoli in midweek.

"I think he's pretty much over the problem he had," Setien said. "There's no major damage. He's over the problem."

Quique Setien may only have been at Barcelona for just over a month, yet he will already know the importance of winning a Clasico.

The new Blaugrana coach takes his side to Real Madrid on Sunday, with his team having a two-point lead over Los Blancos at the top of the LaLiga table.

Barca are unbeaten against their great rivals in their previous seven games, while Madrid have not beaten them in the league since April 2016.

Here we look at how Barca's past five coaches have fared in their first LaLiga Clasicos.

 

PEP GUARDIOLA. BARCELONA 2-0 REAL MADRID. DECEMBER 13, 2008.

Both dugouts featured coaches taking charge of teams in a Clasico for the first time and it was Guardiola who got the better of Madrid's Juande Ramos.

Late goals from Samuel Eto'o and Lionel Messi earned Barcelona the victory as they moved 12 points clear of Madrid in the table too.

That victory occurred during a 10-game winning streak in LaLiga and it was no surprise that Barca, who beat Madrid 6-2 later in the season, went on to win the title.

TITO VILANOVA. BARCELONA 2-2 REAL MADRID. OCTOBER 7, 2012.

The two clubs had already met in the Supercopa de Espana at the start of the season, Madrid winning on away goals after both teams had won a leg apiece.

Their first league meeting of 2012-13 was all about Cristiano Ronaldo and Messi as both men scored twice in a 2-2 draw.

Ronaldo scored for a record sixth successive Clasico to put Madrid ahead and, after Messi had netted a brace, Los Blancos' Portuguese star took his tally to 160 goals in 155 games since his 2009 move from Manchester United with an equaliser.

 

GERARDO MARTINO. BARCELONA 2-1 REAL MADRID. OCTOBER 23, 2013.

All eyes were on new recruits Neymar and Gareth Bale and it was the former who scored first to set Barca on their way.

Alexis Sanchez would double that lead and though Jese Rodriguez pulled one back, Madrid fell to a defeat that left them six points behind Barcelona after just 10 league games.

Both teams would finish the campaign on 87 points, a total not good enough to win the league as Atletico Madrid claimed 90 to be crowned champions.

LUIS ENRIQUE. REAL MADRID 3-1 BARCELONA. OCTOBER 25, 2014.

The Blaugrana had claimed 22 points from the first 24 available but they suffered defeat at Santiago Bernabeu in October 2014.

Barca debutant Luis Suarez, back after a four-month ban for biting, set up Neymar for a fourth-minute opener but the home side stormed back.

An in-form Ronaldo levelled from the spot with his 21st goal of the season before Pepe and Karim Benzema scored in the second half. This remains Madrid's most recent home LaLiga win over Barcelona.

 

ERNESTO VALVERDE. REAL MADRID 0-3 BARCELONA. DECEMBER 23, 2017.

Los Blancos' awful start to the 2017-18 campaign continued as Barcelona moved 14 points clear of the defending champions with a comfortable win at the Bernabeu.

Suarez, Messi and Arturo Vidal all scored while Madrid, who had beaten Barca in both Supercopa de Espana legs at the beginning of the campaign, had Dani Carvajal dismissed for handball.

It was the first time Barcelona had won three successive league matches at the Bernabeu in Clasico history, and they come into Sunday's game with four straight victories at the ground.

Real Madrid and Barcelona are level on 72 LaLiga wins each in El Clasico, but Zinedine Zidane's side are facing an unwanted record on Sunday.

Madrid are winless against their rivals in seven league matches, meaning failure to beat Barca at the Santiago Bernabeu this weekend will set a new worst record for the club in Clasico history.

Not only that, but the Catalans are on a four-game winning streak in league trips to Madrid, and they have a man in charge who could be well placed to extend that run.

Quique Setien has faced Madrid eight times as a head coach in LaLiga and, as history shows, he has something of a knack when it comes to giving Los Blancos a tough time.

MADRID ARE SICK OF THE SIGHT OF SETIEN

"I'm blown by the north wind; I don't go down easily," Setien said last month amid growing unrest behind the scenes at Barca, as Eric Abidal and Lionel Messi began to play out a row in public.

That was not a problem of Setien's making, but Madrid would do well to heed his words - not that they need reminding about his pedigree.

In his eight previous visits to the Santiago Bernabeu as a coach, Setien has won two, drawn two, and lost four. That might not sound hugely impressive for a team such as, say, Barcelona - but what about Las Palmas and Real Betis?

In 2015-16, Setien's Canary Islanders went down 3-1 to Rafael Benitez's Madrid. The following season, with Zinedine Zidane in the opposite dugout, the scoreline was reversed, Las Palmas on the brink of a stunning victory only for Cristiano Ronaldo to score twice in the closing minutes.

His next visit came with Betis in September 2017, when Antonio Sanabria scored in the dying seconds to snatch a famous win. Then, on the final day of last season, Setien was celebrating again at the Bernabeu, this time as Loren Moron and Jese Rodriguez sealed a fully deserved 2-0 triumph.

"To the teams that I have been to lately," he said, "I have guaranteed only one thing, and that is that my team is going to play well." Madrid need no reminders.

STANDING UP TO BARCA SCRUTINY

One of the reasons behind Setien's appointment was to ensure a return to a Johan Cruyff-esque brand of football, removed from Ernesto Valverde's pragmatism.

Setien's method might just bring the boldness Barca will need to beat a Madrid team still smarting from the way they lost to Manchester City.

Setien has lost only half of his trips to the Bernabeu, the same ratio as Luis Enrique, who won two and lost two of his four games there. It's also a notable improvement on Valverde's record: he won nine of his 29 visits with Barca, Athletic Bilbao and Espanyol, losing 15 times and conceding 52 goals.

If there was any greater argument for Setien to stick to his principles of attacking, possession-based football, he need look no further than the man who made the approach his own in the modern game. Pep Guardiola has won 10, drawn four and lost only four of 18 games at the Bernabeu as a head coach.

Batten down the hatches – the north wind is coming.

Former Milan striker and Netherlands head coach Marco van Basten said anyone who believes Cristiano Ronaldo is better than Lionel Messi does not understand anything about football.

Ronaldo and Messi are considered as two of the greatest players of all time, though who exactly stands alone as the best is often debated.

Barcelona captain Messi has won a record six Ballons D'Or, compared to Juventus superstar Ronaldo's five, while the pair have claimed numerous other club and individual honours.

Dutch great Van Basten, however, weighed in on the debate and made it clear who he thinks is the superior footballer.

"Cristiano Ronaldo is a great player, but those who claim that he is better than Messi don't understand anything about football or say it in bad faith," Van Basten told Corriere della Sera.

"Messi is unique, inimitable and unrepeatable.

"Players like him appear every 50 or 100 years.

"As a child he fell into the pot of football genius."

Ronaldo is enjoying another fine season, with the 35-year-old's goal tally already at 25 across all competitions.

The Portugal captain scored 21 Serie A goals in his first campaign in Turin, and he has already matched that figure through 21 matches this term.

Messi, meanwhile, has scored 23 goals in all competitions for LaLiga champions Barcelona in 2019-20.

Ahead of Sunday's Clasico against bitter rivals Real Madrid, Messi has managed 18 league goals in 20 appearances.

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