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ESPN FC  By ESPN

Cristiano Ronaldo likelier than Lionel Messi to score Saturday -- projection

Is this the weekend that Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo finally open their scoring accounts in league play this season? 

Both are in action on Saturday, with Ronaldo and Real Madrid visiting Espanyol before Messi and Barcelona play at Atletico Madrid.

ESPN's projection model, which predicts how the two scoring rivals will fare each week and over the whole season in La Liga, has run the numbers and suggests Ronaldo has a better chance of finding the net.

Messi Ronaldo weekend 20150911
Last season, Messi scored once at Atletico while Ronaldo bagged a hat trick at Espanyol.

2015-16 total goals projection

Ronaldo was the preseason pick to score more goals, but the latest projection makes Messi a narrow favourite to win the head-to-head battle.

Messi Ronaldo season 20150911
Between them, Ronaldo and Messi have won the past six Pichichi awards, which is given to the leading scorer in La Liga.

What do you think?

We want your input! Vote in the poll and let us know who you think will score the most goals this season, using the hashtag #ESPNFCMessiRonaldo.

2015-16 milestone projection

After two barren weekends to open the season, the odds of Messi and Ronaldo reaching certain goal landmarks are either level or slightly favour the Barcelona man.

Messi Ronaldo milestones 20150911
Messi has 286 career Liga goals. Ronaldo has 225.

How does the projection model work?

Here's a brief explanation from its creator, ESPN Stats & Information analytics specialist Zach Bradshaw:

"These projections account for the historical performance (goals scored and minutes played) of the two players since 2010, strength of opposing defences faced (measured by SPI defensive rating), game location, and the potential for injury or missing games. Based on the these inputs, the predictor will estimate the chance of each player scoring any number of goals for each remaining game. From this, we can project the total number of goals scored, hat tricks, and the chance of each player accruing more goals than the other over the course of the entire Liga season."

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