​Sergio Ramos has revealed that he has ‘massive respect’ for rival Lionel Messi ahead of the weekend’s El Clasico, and that despite the rivalry between ​Barcelona and ​Real Madrid, he still considers Messi to be one of the best players ever.

Six-time Ballon d’Or winner Messi is in the throes of yet another hugely impressive season, having scored 23 goals in 29 appearances in all competitions for Barca, inclusive of 16 assists.

And although Ramos hopes that the Barcelona skipper finishes on the losing side at the Bernabeu, the Los Blancos defender still considers him to one of best players to play the game.

“I have huge respect for him,” the 33-year-old told ​La Liga. “I think he’s one of the greatest players in history and I have huge respect for him. I hope Sunday isn’t his day, that would mean we’ve done our job, and if on top of that we can get a good result even better. It’s hard, but he has my maximum respect, I think he’s one of the best.”

Sunday’s clash between the two Spanish heavyweights holds extra significance for Spain’s two biggest clubs in the context of the ​La Liga title race. 

Madrid, who have seen a recent dip in form, currently find themselves two points behind the Blaugrana on La Liga’s table, but would reclaim top spot with three points on Sunday. Los Blancos come into the match following back-to-back losses against Levante and ​Manchester City in the ​Champions League, however, Ramos is confident his side can cause the Catalan club problems.

Ramos added: “We’ve played them many times, so we know how to trouble them. Barcelona are a team who keep possession a lot. They’re most uncomfortable when you try to take it from them. Everyone knows that, not just Real Madrid.”

Defeat for the hosts would see Quique Setien’s side pull five points clear as they look to claim a third successive league title.

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