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Messi, Ronaldo score in Ballon d'Or prelude

BARCELONA, Spain --Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo both scored to help their teams win in the Spanish league on Sunday, a day before the two stars and Andres Iniesta vie for the FIFA Ballon d'Or prize.

Messi scored for an eighth straight Spanish league game by converting a penalty in Barcelona's 4-0 thrashing of crosstown rival Espanyol, while Ronaldo netted twice in a three-minute span to give 10-man Real Madrid a hard-fought 4-3 victory over Real Sociedad.

Messi, who finished 2012 with a record 91 goals, is the favorite to win the Ballon d'Or for an unprecedented fourth time. Ronaldo collected the award in 2008. Messi's teammate, Iniesta, has never won soccer's highest individual honor.

“Andres would love to win it, just like Leo,” said Barcelona forward Pedro Rodriguez, who scored twice. “I hope one of them wins it.”

Ronaldo's double likely saved coach Jose Mourinho from considerably more scathing criticism after his decision to drop goalkeeper Iker Casillas almost backfired for a second straight game, with Madrid barely overcoming Xabi Prieto's hat trick.

Despite fan and media backlash after last round's loss, Mourinho again started rarely used Adan Garrido. But the keeper was sent off after giving away an early penalty, forcing the introduction of Casillas.

The crowd at Santiago Bernabeu stadium voiced its displeasure with Mourinho by jeering the coach's name when it was announced before the game and cheering for their beloved Casillas.

Madrid's fans couldn't have asked for a better start just two minutes in when Sociedad's unbalanced defense left Karim Benzema unmarked to receive Khedira's pass and score with ease.

Madrid's lead didn't last long and it again appeared to show that Mourinho's choice in goal was misguided.

Adan was overwhelmed last round when he conceded three goals in the loss at Malaga, and he was shown to be out of his depth at home as well.

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FC Barcelona's Gerard Pique, right, duels for the ball against Espanyol's Hector Moreno during a Spanish La Liga soccer match at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, Spain, Sunday. (AP)

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