As Messi's goals dry up, Ronaldo hits a red-hot scoring streak ahead of Clasico

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By Ben Hayward | Spanish Football Writer

Such scoring stats may never be seen again. Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have pushed each other to new heights over the last few seasons and the current campaign appears no different, with the pair already in double figures. But while the Argentine’s goals have dried up in the last three games, the Portuguese has hit a rich streak of scoring form at what could be the best time of all – just before Sunday’s Clasico.

Messi had the edge in 2011-12, netting an incredible 73 goals (to Ronaldo‘s 60) to smash Gerd Muller’s long-standing European record of 67 in a single campaign. And the 25-year-old got off to a better start than his Real Madrid rival this season, too, racking up 10 in his first seven games. But the Argentine has failed to add to his tally since his double in the 3-2 win over Spartak Moscow last month and was overtaken by Ronaldo on Wednesday as the Portuguese struck a second successive hat-trick – this time in a 4-1 win over Ajax in Amsterdam.Ronaldo gave Madrid the lead at Ajax as the Dutch defence failed to clear a Karim Benzema cross from the left, and after the Frenchman had struck a stunning second with a scissor kick after the break and Madrid had conceded a sloppy set-piece goal at the other end, the Portuguese wrapped up a comprehensive victory with two late efforts within a minute – a right-footed curler from outside the area which found its way just inside the post and a cool lob over Ajax goalkeeper Kenneth Vermeer moments later following an impressive long pass from Sami Khedira.

Smiling broadly as he claimed his second match ball in the space of four days, the 27-year-old is now unrecognisable from the forlorn figure who refused to celebrate his goals against Granada just a few weeks ago. Gone is the depressed demeanour from the Bernabeu game, replaced by a lean and mean scoring machine who has racked up eight in his last four appearances for Jose Mourinho’s men.

Messi, meanwhile, has failed to hit the target in the last three games, but remains in top form when it comes to setting up others. The Argentine has assisted five Barca goals so far this term, including four in the last two games (both in the 2-0 victory at Benfica on Tuesday and two out of three in the 3-2 comeback win over Sevilla on Saturday). And Cristiano, despite his impressive run in front of goal, has failed to set up a strike for any of his team-mates so far in 2012-13.

Ronaldo now has 158 goals for Real Madrid at over one per game and took his Champions League tally to 42 thanks to Wednesday’s triple. He has already scored twice against Barcelona this season (Messi also netted two in two in the sides’ Spanish Supercopa series) and has converted in his last four Camp Nou appearances. And with eight in his last four games including back-to-back hat-tricks, he is clearly in the mood once again. So following his recent mini-drought, Barcelona better hope Messi is, too.

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Kaka: I'm regaining Mourinho's confidence

Real Madrid midfielder Kaka feels he is on the right track once more after a difficult period in his career, and is regaining head coach Jose Mourinho’s confidence again.

The Brazil international appeared to be on his way out of the Spanish capital during the summer transfer window, with rumours circulating that former club AC Milan had lined up a move for him.

However, Kaka eventually stayed put, and the 30-year-old impressed on Wednesday when handed a rare start in the 4-1 Champions League win over Ajax.

“I think I am heading in the right direction. Wednesday, I showed that the work I have been doing is paying off and I am regaining the confidence of the coach,” he told Uefa.com.

“And that’s what I always hoped would happen. I want to gain his trust, play more, and bit by bit I think things will turn out the way they should.”

The attacking midfielder then looked ahead to this weekend’s La Liga encounter against Barcelona, and stressed a vital game awaits Madrid.

“And now we can look forward to giving our all in the Clasico [on Sunday] because it’s a crucial match for us.”

Sunday’s match at Camp Nou is scheduled to kick off at 19:50CET.

Cristiano Ronaldo: It's important to gain confidence ahead of El Clasico

Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaka and Sergio Ramos expressed their happiness with Real Madrid’s 4-1 away victory against Ajax and declared that they are determined to succeed at Camp Nou against Barcelona in their next game.

Ronaldo was the hero for Jose Mourinho’s side, notching a hat-trick, whilst Kaka and Sergio Ramos were handed starts despite having fallen out of favour with the coach.

Speaking to Canal+, Ronaldo said: “I am very happy because we won and played well. For me, to score three goals is vital.

“We played a very complete game and it is very important to gain confidence for the next game [vs Barcelona].

“It’s very important to take the ball home but the important thing is the team because without them I would not manage to score goals.”

Barcelona could open up an 11-point lead if they defeat Los Blancos on Sunday, but Ronaldo is sure that his team can get the victory they’re looking for.

“I am confident that we will get a good result in a difficult place, the Camp Nou. They have a very good team and there will not be much difference,” he explained.

Kaka’s first-team chances have been limited this season but the Brazilian playmaker is determined to seize every opportunity he can get in the Madrid jersey.

“It was a little surprise for me, but it was a personal conquest through hard work. I’m available for coach, whatever he needs,” he said.

“Barcelona is one of our direct competitors, and that means it is a very important match.”

Meanwhile, after his public feud with the coach, Sergio Ramos has stated that the pair have resolved their differences and the vice-captain hopes that the team can continue their recent good run of form.

“Mourinho’s matter is over, and I’m happy for the victory in the Champions League, which is the best for the team,” the Spain international declared.

“It was an important victory against a complicated team, but now we have to focus on La Liga.

“The Clasico is coming and it’s always special. We have to keep this good streak and get more points in the league.”

De Boer disappointed with Real Madrid Champions League defeat

Ajax coach Frank De Boer has criticised his side’s display after they suffered a heavy 4-1 defeat in the Champions League at home to Real Madrid on Wednesday night.

The Dutch champions have lost both of their Uefa Champions League matches and speaking to French television network Canal+, De Boer expressed his disappointment in the performance.

“We have played quite badly. We have not reached our [best] level and when you don’t, you cannot win against Madrid,” he said.

“I’m disappointed, especially with the first 50 minutes. When it was 2-1 we created a bit more danger but we have not deserved to draw.”

In his post-match conference, De Boer explained how his players paid too much respect to Jose Mourinho’s side and lost the tactical battle.

“We had to play solidly when we didn’t have the ball and search the spaces when we did have it. We didn’t do either and that’s a shame,” he explained.

“I always say to the players that you must respect your opponent, but you should never worship them.

“That’s something we did today and in that way you can never win against a team like Real.”

The former-Barcelona defender also stoked the fire ahead of El Clasico on Sunday by confessing that he preferred the attacking tiki-taka of the Catalan club but could not help but admire the transition of Madrid’s play.

“I view Madrid and Barca at the same level. I prefer to watch Barcelona for their style of play, but the transition of Madrid makes them very dangerous,” he explained.

Ajax face Manchester City next in desperate search of three Champions League points at the Amsterdam ArenA on Wednesday, October 24.

We had total control of the game, says Mourinho following Real Madrid's 4-1 win

Jose Mourinho was happy to see his Real Madrid side control their Champions League match against Ajax at the Amsterdam ArenA on Wednesday night.

Cristiano Ronaldo scored a hat-trick for the visitors while Karim Benzema also netted a fine acrobatic goal shortly after half-time.

“I liked my team a lot during 75 minutes. In the first 45 and then up until Ajax’s goal [in the 56th minute] we had total control of the game against an Ajax team that were different from their usual version, much more defensive than usual,” the 49-year-old told Canal+ after the match.

Despite Madrid going two goals up, they conceded against the run of play when Niklas Moisander headed home Christian Eriksen’s corner.

The Ajax goal prompted a 15-minute period of dominance for the home side that Mourinho was glad to see end when Ronaldo scored his second and third goals.

“We lost a little control after Ajax scored, it became dangerous,” he explained.

“Then we scored our third goal, Ajax understood that the game was over and we took control again.”

When asked how he felt that his side had conceded another goal from a set piece the Madrid trainer said: “It’s difficult to comment. I don’t want to talk here, I want to talk inside the locker room.”

On whether there were things he needed to fix with his side, he added: “That’s your take, I don’t think so. I think we were well organised.”

Following reports that Cristiano Ronaldo is unhappy at the Bernabeu, Mourinho praised the forward’s contribution as he scored a hat-trick for his side tonight.

“The team is achieving objectives. This win gives us a little calm. He [Ronaldo] knows his goals are important for the team,” said Mourinho.

And when asked about the situation with Sergio Ramos following his spell on the bench, Mourinho said: “He’s played and he’s done well. My job is to get the best from the players.

“He’s performed excellently in three matches after being on the bench. For me that’s the important thing, it’s what I’m looking for.”

Madrid next face Barcelona in El Clasico on Sunday.