As Barcelona and Real Madrid attempt to overturn large first-leg deficits, can their star men change a game that could change their destiny?
In the first legs of the Champions League semi-finals, we saw a show of breath-taking dominance from Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund.
The performances of the German sides were such that the second-legs should surely be branded dead rubbers.
And yet they aren’t, because despite Barcelona being 4-0 down and Real Madrid only slightly better off with a 4-1 deficit, there is a factor that football fans everywhere just cannot ignore.
It seems almost absurd to call this week a defining one for two players who have torn up the rulebook of modern football, each performing at such a consistent and unreachable level that many regard them as the best there has ever been.
And yet should one of them do the seemingly unthinkable and inspire their side to a famous and almost-inexplicable comeback, they will re-write their own outstanding legacy.
Of course they could just as easily exit the competition with the dampest of squibs. But something tells me we are about to see two unforgettable nights of football.
When a side is so obviously beaten, they play with no fear. And when a side is so deeply wounded, they fight for all they are worth.
Last week was the tale of German resurgence. We were shown a glimpse of a new age where vitality and tactical efficiency beat tiki-taka football and managerial posing hands-down.
But there is a second leg to be played. And if Bayern and Dortmund could do it the first time round, you can be sure Barcelona and Real will try their hardest to echo those achievements over the next two evenings.
Despite the votes for the Ballon d’Or suggesting Messi is consistently above his Portuguese rival, debate remains over who is the best of the best.
Ronaldo may see the second leg as his chance to finally outshine the Argentine, to inspire his side to an improbable comeback and ultimately lift Real’s fabled decima.
That would surely seal him the other top prize he so desperately craves.
But Messi is equally capable of turning the other semi-final on its head.
So this week will see two men attempt to stand out among many. They have the ability to do so, but they are in the company of some of the very best.
One thing is for sure: It will make for interesting viewing.
Do you think Messi or Ronaldo can inspire their clubs to overturn such big deficits? Or will it be an all-German final at Wembley?
image: © andyjakeman