Real Madrid welcome bitter rivals Barcelona to the Bernabeu on Saturday evening in the first El Clasico of the La Liga season.
The clash brings together the two best players in the world, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, who between them have won the last six Ballon d'Or awards.
Here, Sportsmail's columnists and reporters reveal which of the two they consider to be the best.
Messi. This has to be one of the hardest questions anyone has ever asked me! I was lucky enough to work on both the Barcelona and Real Madrid games this week and both players were so good.
I took my son, who is a big Liverpool fan, to Anfield just to watch Cristiano Ronaldo. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to watch players of their quality so whenever you get the chance you have to go and watch what they do.
They are both so different but so good in their own right. It’s like trying to compare Bentleys and Ferraris!
Cristiano Ronaldo delivered another masterclass this week as Real Madrid crushed Liverpool at Anfield
Ronaldo scored twice against Brendan Rodgers' side to take his goal tally for the season to a staggering 21
Ronaldo (centre) trains with Sergio Ramos (left) and Luka Modric the day before El Clasico
When Messi was at his best two or three years ago, Ronaldo wasn’t at the level he is at now. Since then he has got better and better and there’s no doubt he’s now eclipsed Messi.
At the World Cup Messi walked more than he ran and I wondered if this truly would be Ronaldo’s time, but against Ajax on Tuesday I sensed a change. Some of that Messi movement and intensity was back and I hope he stays fit. It would be fantastic to have a true shoot out between the two where we can all have front row seats.
I honestly think Lionel Messi is the greatest footballer I have ever seen in my lifetime – it’s impossible to compare players across eras – and if you asked me whose ability I’d rather have, I’d probably say Messi. Some of the things he did at his peak were pieces of absolute genius.
But what is definitely true is that at the moment, Messi and Ronaldo are playing a different game to everyone else.
Lionel Messi had his best season to date in 2011-12 when he scored 73 goals in 60 games for Barcelona
Messi. In every other era there’s only ever been one great player at a time – Pele, Cruyff, Maradona, Zidane. There have always been good players but they were the solo stand-out players.
Now we’ve got two of them. That almost makes them better because they are competing directly against each other for goals. They are both match-winners and exceptional players, but I do have a favourite.
When you look at Ronaldo, his numbers and goals are phenomenal. But you look at his skill set and it is something that can be developed. You have seen his pace, energy, strength in the air and his power all increase. His technique has improved and there has been a noticeable development. Of course he is incredible, but he has made himself the player he is.
Messi showed he is returning to something like his best form as he helped Barcelona to victory over Ajax
With Messi, it’s like he has a God-given talent. You look at videos of him as a kid and he’s doing all the same things as he is now – beating five or six players and curling it in the corner.
There’s also something eye-pleasing about left-footed players. You saw it with Maradona and you see it with Messi. I love the way he runs around the ball to pass it into the corner. They are both exceptional players but I just prefer watching Messi.
Messi. For me, and I've said it for a few years, Lionel Messi is the best player I have ever seen play. I know he's had a quiet 12 months by his own standards, but he edges it for me.
We're blessed with Ronaldo and Messi being of the same generation, that they're both around at the same time. This is a golden period. These players don't come along every generation. There's not a lot between them. They both get you on the edge of your seat every time they get the ball, both create goals and both score goals.
I don't buy it that they have to win a World Cup or a European Championship to be considered great players. That's just a title. They make the best defenders in the world look ordinary time and time again.
Messi has won three Champions League trophies with Barcelona, the last of which came in 2011 (left)
Ronaldo celebrates after helping Madrid win the Champions League against rivals Atletico in May
Ronaldo shows off his boots ahead of the weekend
Ronaldo. Power, pace, edge-of-the-seat adrenaline, football box office. He’s George Best, without the benders. Messi is a beautiful footballer, with balance and mesmerising dribbling skills… but he’s the second best footballer in the world. I like the edge between them, too. It makes for ‘anything you can do, I can do better’ football at its finest. Roll on the Clasico.
Messi. It's difficult to ignore Ronaldo, especially when even Roy Keane can't fault him. He considers him the ultimate professional as well as the ultimate player. But I think Messi does things with just that little bit more finesse. The way he strikes the ball for instance. It's just that tad more pleasing on the eye. I also like Messi's modesty on and off the field. He's more understated than Ronaldo, which again I prefer.
Messi. This is not saying one is better than the other, as I don’t believe it is right to compare. They are two of the greatest footballers to have ever played the game and should be duly appreciated and enjoyed. At Anfield on Wednesday, Ronaldo was so good he earned a standing ovation from the Kop. But let’s not forget what Messi has done in recent years. He is, in a word, a genius.
Messi. Best player of a generation bar none. Ronaldo is the epitome of sports entertainment. Good-looking, honed physique (Adel Taarabt take note); a sports marketer's dream. Messi, though, is about one thing: football - only football. There's that viral of Ronaldo and Messi sitting at the Balon d'Or bash, with the Portuguese flanked by both his and Messi's girlfriends and the Argentine sitting on his lonesome. Ronaldo gets the girls. Messi gets the crown of the world's best footballer.
This Photoshop image of Ronaldo with both his and Messi's girlfriends mocked the difference between the two
Ronaldo is a sports marketer's dream with his honed physique and modelling contracts
VIDEO Barcelona next on Ronaldo's hit-list
Messi. One-on-one there is no-one in the world as good as Messi, not even Ronaldo. The sheer range of his ability to beat a man from a standing start is what puts him apart. Yes, Ronaldo can head better and is stronger. But in terms of doing something special with a football, no-one is more mesmerising than Messi.
Messi. Ronaldo has an extra ingredient to all the other football all-time greats, he is as lethal in the air as he is on the ground, making him impossible to stop. But if you are talking preferences, I think Messi is an inspirational figure because of his size - or lack of it.
One of the reasons football is the world game is because anyone can play from five foot nothing upwards. To be idolised through pure skill rather than power or celebrity lifestyle in this day and age is amazing. So it's Messi for me - just. Ronaldo is great, too!
Messi. Maybe not quite at the heights he was a couple of years ago but still the most outrageously gifted footballer of the generation.
What a delight it is to see him perform. Messi is for wit, artistry and imagination against pace, muscle and power. Who doesn’t warm to the idea of the scruffy short kids embarrassing the big lumbering oafs with their magical skills?
He offers hope and a reminder that football’s soul resides in the streets not the gym or the lab, and that it is about the playing for pleasure not posing for fame.
Messi shares a joke with his Barcelona team-mates in training as they prepare for El Clasico
Messi with former Manchester United defender Gerard Pique ahead of Barcelona's trip to the Bernabeu
Messi. He lacks the incredible athleticism of Ronaldo and likewise can't do nearly as much in the air. By all accounts, Ronaldo is the more complete player. But, for the same reasons I favour Roger Federer over Rafael Nadal, despite Federer's vastly inferior head-to-head record, it is because of the elegance of how Messi plays.
Ronaldo is magnificent and fast and a brutally effective goalscorer; Messi, at his best, is just as effective and looks better doing it. For me, there is nothing more stunning in football than a player slaloming through a crowd and dinking the keeper. That is what Messi does (did?) better than anyone.
They are, in my opinion, the best two players of my lifetime and the little man stands a hair taller than Ronaldo.
Ronaldo To call him 'ruthlessly efficient' is a disservice - he is beautifully and brilliantly efficient, redefining how we evaluate football numbers. Wayne Rooney take note: here is a guy with equal talent who has dedicated his life to maximising that ability, stretching the limit of his body and mind. Messi, of course, is incredible, but Ronaldo shades it for his unrelenting genius and hunger to be the very best, season on season.
Messi and Ronaldo have gone head-to-head in Spain since the Portuguese joined Real Madrid in 2009
A Madrid sports shop displays Ronaldo and Messi replica shirts ahead of the much-anticipated clash