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Messi, Ronaldo's scoring duel mirrors title race

Published: Saturday, July 4 2015 9:22 a.m. MDT

Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo from Portugal reacts during a Spanish La Liga soccer match against Atletico de Madrid at the Vicente Calderon stadium, in Madrid, Wednesday, April 11, 2012.  (Daniel Ochoa de Olza, Associated Press) Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo from Portugal reacts during a Spanish La Liga soccer match against Atletico de Madrid at the Vicente Calderon stadium, in Madrid, Wednesday, April 11, 2012. (Daniel Ochoa de Olza, Associated Press)

MADRID — Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are locked in a personal duel for European scoring records that is carrying Barcelona and Real Madrid toward a tantalizing finale in the fight for the Spanish league title.

With the two powerhouses set to meet next week in a "clasico" that could well decide the title race, Ronaldo kept Madrid four points ahead of its rival by matching his own record of 40 league goals in one season Wednesday by scoring a hat trick in a 4-1 win over Atletico Madrid.

That put him one ahead of Messi in the league and took his overall tally on the season to 52. Messi, however, has 61 goals overall which leaves the Barcelona forward only two shy of matching Everton's Dixie Dean's 63-goal tally from the 1927-28 season — the record by a player in Europe's major leagues.

Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo from Portugal scores a goal against Atletico de Madrid during a Spanish La Liga soccer match at the Vicente Calderon stadium, in Madrid, Wednesday, April 11, 2012.  (Daniel Ochoa de Olza, Associated Press) Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo from Portugal scores a goal against Atletico de Madrid during a Spanish La Liga soccer match at the Vicente Calderon stadium, in Madrid, Wednesday, April 11, 2012. (Daniel Ochoa de Olza, Associated Press)

Madrid faces Sporting Gijon on Saturday when Barcelona travels to Levante.

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